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Pallavi Dutta Report

Excerpts from November 2012 Report

For a pilot survey I went to the field and met my collaborator Mr Nadiram Deuri and his associates. They took me a place which they called club (at Jagiroad, Morigaon District), where they actually perform their rehearsals of Tiwa Folk Music and Dances. Mr Nadiram Deuri who is about 55 years old, he performs in different parts of India with his troupe consisting of male and female performers. He has not only links with major Tiwa Cultural Leaders but he has collected different forms of Tiwa Music and Dances forms from hills and plains. I got a glimpse of Tiwa Folk Songs and Dances and an initial rapport was established.

Excerpts from December 2012 Report

I visited to observe a stage performance of Tiwa folk dance at the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati on 11th December 2012.Two different Tiwa folk dances with their beautiful Tiwa folk Songs and musical instrument like Drum, Flute, Singa Pepa (a kind of flute made of the horn of Buffalo) and Taal (a kind of musical instrument)were performed. The use of Sarailo (a kind of musical instrument made of wood) is one of the main attractions of the dance performances.

I recorded a rehearsal program of Two Tiwa folk songs at the club of my collaborator Nadiram Deuri at Jagiroad of Morigaon districton 14th December 2012.

From the 16th December to 26th of December 2012 there was a dance workshop organized in Karbi Anglong district of Assam, where my collaborator Nadiram Deuri taught the Tiwa folk dances. Though this workshop was based on Tiwa folk dance performance, there were many participants who belong to the Karbi community.

I have also visited the Barat Utsav (festival) on 28th December. It was held in a village namely Tetelia in Morigaon District of Assam. Barat is a festival which is celebrated by the Plain Tiwas in Tetelia Village of Gobha Rajya (Tiwa populated areas are called as Gobha Rajya). This is the only festival which is celebrated at the night of full moon. People come to join there from the different parts of Gobha Rajya.

In this Barat Utsav, people sing their Barat Songs with their fabulous dance performances. There are two types of Barat Songs, like (1) Barat Geet or Baratar Geet and (2) Barat Naam or Baratar Naam. Barat Geets are performed by the participants of this festival with their specific Barat dance performance. In the context of Barat Geets, male and female performers tease each other as well as they describe about other things, feelings and psychology. Barat Geets also reflect the eagerness of the Tiwa folk for this colourful festival. On the other hand, Barat Naams are performed by a group of women who are associated with the ritual of Barat festival. Mainly elderly women sing Barat Naam to praise their Goddess.

In case of the dance performance of Barat, the performers use different types of masks to perform their Barat dance like, Animal Mask, Deity Mask, Ghost and Witch Mask ect. The mask users are mainly male. Some performers perform their dance without using any mask. Choreography of Barat dance is related with the animal gestures and in a very small part of this performance some performers show the fishing practice of Tiwas.  The entire performance of Barat traced back the history of the Tiwa tribe and their beliefs associate with this festival.

Musical Instruments of Barat: Different types of Sarailos, Drums, Flutes, and Taals are the main musical instruments of the Barat songs and dance performances.

Field Report of January 2013

In the month of January I visited Jonbil Mela of Tiwa tribe, held at Jagiroad of Morigaon district in the month of January, during the period of Magh Bihu. Jonbil is a fair cum festival where many other tribes take participate. The tribes like Khasi, Jayantia, Karbi, Tiwa exchange their commodities and products among them without using money. In this barter system many people come from different parts of Assam to exchange their products with the tribes. Gobha Raja (Raja means king) comes to this mela and his subordinate kings also participate in Jonbil Mela. The Mantris (ministers) collect the tax from the people who participate in the Jonbil Mela to exchange their products. Unity in diversity reflects in this Jonbil Mela among the different tribes of Assam. The Jonbil is a combination of two words; jon and bil and the meaning of these two words accordingly moon and pond. There are three most common sayings behind the name of Jonbil.

  1. It is believed that this Jonbil fair cum festival is held on the bank of a pond where the ancient Gova Raja seen the reflection of the crescent moon on the water of the pond.
  2. According to some people the shape of this pond is like a crescent moon
  3. Another saying regarding the Jonbil is that Jonbil fair cum festival is named after the king Jon Sing.

Community fishing is one of the important significance during the Jonbil Mela. The people participate in the community fishing with their beautiful folk songs. On the last day of Jonbil, people have feast and the next day morning they set their temporary huts on fire. The various dance forms and songs are performed by the tribes during the Jonbil festival.

In Jonbil Mela Tiwa tribe perform their various folk performances to express their happiness as well as to praise their King Gobha Raja. This time some artists have performed Maifatala Nitya (dance), Barat Nitya (dance), Godalporia Barat Nitya (dance) and Moinari Kanthi Nitya (dance).

Folk performance of a tribe is as like as the mirror of that tribe. From any kind of folk performance one can understand the psychology of the folk of a society. Maifatala Nitya or dance is associated with the agricultural practice of Tiwas which followed by Maifatala song. These dance and song performance focused the main occupation of this tribe or the importance of agriculture in Tiwa community.

Barat Nitya and Godalporia Barat Nitya are two folk dance performances which are related to the Barat Utsav (festival) and these two dance performances followed by Barat song and Godalporia song accordingly. As I have mentioned in my last field report of the month of December that in Barat festival, the dance movements are similar to movements of animal ; but with the passage of time, choreography of these dances have been modified. New steps in these folk dance performances have been added, for example they have added their fishing practice as a new gesture of Barat dance. Use of Khaloi and Jakhoi (the traditional equipments which are used by Tiwa tribes for fishing) by the performers symbolized their fishing practice in Godalporia Barat Dance.

Musical instruments: Drums, Flutes, Sarailo (musical instrument made of bamboo), Singa Pepa (a kind of flute made of Buffalo horn) were the main musical instruments used during Jonbil.

I met a Karbi performer in Tiwa tradition attire, who played flute and pepa with one of the Tiwa folk dance performance bands. From this case we can understand the brotherhood feelings between Tiwa and Karbi tribes.

Excerpts from February Report

In the month of February I visited the club of my collaborator Shri Nadiram Deuri to know about the material culture connected with songs and dances of Tiwas. I saw 7 musical instruments, 6 traditional equipments and traditional male attire which they use in their folk dance performances.

Sarailo is very unique kind of folk musical instrument of Plain Tiwas ,made of bamboo. It is small in size and performers use it in solo performances. There is another kind of Sarailo namely Jakoria Sarailo which is bigger in size. Performers use it mainly in the Barat festival to perform their beautiful Barat dance and songs. In dance performances, three people carry the Jakoria Sarailo in a line and they play it with the help of the strings. The Sarailo has a bird on the top of it and a head of deer in the front and a tail of jute on the back side of it. The name Sarailo derived from the word Sarai means bird. According to Tiwa people the bird of Sarailo is the Pigeon. Pigeon is very calm bird as well as deer; therefore the pigeon and deer of Sarailo symbolize peace.

Tiwa people have different kinds of wooden drums. In Tiwa language, it is known as Khram. I have seen 3 numbers of drums like Pati Khram, Khram Ludang and Khram Khujura or jor Khram at my collaborator’s club. They use each of it in different types of performances. Pati Khram is played mainly by the plain Tiwas. In Barat Utsav people mostly use Pati Khram, Jakoria Sarailo, Sarailo, Muhuri, and Taal. Pati Khramis also available in Assamese society but it is known as Pati Dhul in Assamese term; which is the main musical instrument of Bihu Festival. Khram Ludang is another kind of drum which is very long. It is the musical instrument of the Hill Tiwas and they play it in Wansuwa and Yangli festivals and in Aarkheti Nritya (Zhumkheti dance) etc. Khujura Khram or Jor Khram is played in Yangli dance and songs of Yangli festival, Sagrwa dance and songs of Sagrwa festival and Mainari Kanthi Misawa (dance). It is known as Khujura Khram (Khujura means short and Khram means drum) among the Hill Tiwas and in Plain, it is known as Jor Khram. This drum is one of the important musical instruments of Tiwa Rajas. Muhuri is a kind of flute and it is found in various forms.

Pangsi is a flute which is made of bamboo. It is also another important musical instrument of Tiwas.

Apart from all these musical instruments Nadiram Deuri described some other musical instruments which are not available among the Tiwas of plain. Thurang is a kind of flute which is made of bamboo. It is very long and can be folded into two pieces. Thurang is like the heart of Tiwas. The music of Thurang is very beautiful and peaceful. Thurlu is a musical instrument with two holes. The buffalo horn flute is called Singa in Tiwa. It is also popular among the Assamese society and is known as Singa Pepa. Tiwas have Komna also. It is also available in the material culture of Assam but in Assamese it is known as Gagana. Khram Panthai is a drum which is available in Hills. It is played along with Khram Lewa and Khram Ludang. Tumding Tokor is a very unique kind of drum which is played in Mainari Kanthi Misawa. A Performer ties this drum around his navel with a piece of cloth. Thokari is single string musical instrument of Tiwas. Sarangkat is a musical instrument which is similar to violin. Sarangkat is restricted to be played inside the Dekachang (male dormitory) but in their free time, boys can play it outside their dormitory for the amusement. They express love, sadness etc by playing Sarangkat. Chenthor is a wooden made musical instrument which is known as Jator. In Wansuwa festival, boys and girls use this instrument when they participate in singing competitions.

Tiwas have some traditional equipment which is very essential to dance performances like :

  1. Sam and Sambari, (Traditiona equipment of cake making in Wansuwa for Wansuwa dance),
  2. Jakhui, Falah and Khaloi, (Traditional fishing equipment for Barat dance),
  3. Langkhui and Paru  (Sword and shield for Yangli dance) and
  4. Langkhan (Bamboo piece for Langkhan dance).

I have observed the male traditional costumes and necklace of Tiwas at my collaborator’s home is very attractive. They use this traditional attire when they dance and sing and is also important for any ritualistic performance like Sagrwa Fuja. These male traditional costumes are as follows:

  1. Faguri (Headgear of hand-woven cloth),
  2. Faga (A piece of cloth for neck),
  3. Thenash (Cloth for chest, it is used as a cross belt for chest),
  4. Tagla (Traditional jacket),
  5. Nara (A piece of cloth for waist it is used like a waist belt. In Assamese traditional handloom, people use a piece of cloth like Nara in Bihu dance which is known as Tongali),
  6. Thana (Cloth for lower body part of male)
  7. Tukhuralengjai (It is another type of headgear which is made of the tails of Bhimraj Bird but now a days this species of bird is rare in the plain areas; therefore they use tails of Hens as a subtitude).
  8. Sikila (Necklace for both male and female)

In the present time people use colours on their musical instruments where no colours were used earlier; which can be considered one of the major changes in musical instruments. These colours are generally applied on the musical instruments to make them more attractive for stage performances. The colours are also used as preservative measure that checks the insects and other pest causing damage to the instruments.

In case of traditional textiles, the Tagla (male traditional jacket) was very short in size whereas now they prefer to wear the long Tagla. Though the original short Tagla is popular in the hills, but in the plains, Tiwa males don’t use the original Tagla. According to my collaborator, the new form of Tagla is much more comfortable to wear and to perform dances.

 

Excerpts from March Report

On 22nd of March 2013, I visited a place Bormarjong in Karbi Anglong district, Assam at the time of Sakra or Sagrwa Misawa Fuja. Bormarjong is the main place of Tiwa cultural heritage. It is a small beautiful village of Hill Tiwas, where about 150 to 180 households live .Agriculture is the main occupation of this village. Plantation of bamboo is another significant culture for livelihood of the people of Bormarjong. Every household use a unique kind of traditional bamboo gate namely Langara, which is very eye-catching.

Sakra or Sagrwa Misawa Fuja is one of the agricultural based folk dance festivals of Tiwas; which is celebrated yearly in the month of Fagun (during the month of February to March). Every clan of Hill Tiwas of Karbi Anglong district like Amsai, Marjong, Lumfui, Amri and Amkha celebrates Sakra at their villages. In case of Plain Tiwas, different Tiwa villages which are situated near by Nagaon, Morigaon and Kamrup districts also celebrate Sakra Misawa Fuja.

There are two types of Sakra Misawa Fuja, like Sakra and Sakra Mura. In Sakra, dance performers wear Khumkhathi which is a headgear especially for Sakra dance. But in Sakra Mura, dance performers don’t wear Khumkhathi. Sakra is a spring dance festival of Tiwas; therefore it is also known as Basanta Utsav of Tiwas. There is a taboo among the Tiwas for any woman toparticipate in Sakra Misawa Fuja. Women are prohibited to take part in any kind of performance like dance, music, ritual of Sakra Misawa Fuja. They are only allowed to help the participants and other people.

Excerpts from April 2012 Report

From my field experience at Bormarjong village, I have come to know that the people of this village belong to Marjong clan. Sakra is the first spring time dance festival of them. It is believed that the main worshipped deity of this Sakra Misawa Fuja is Saribhai or Nasuni Paguri Raja or Nritya Geetar Debota (means God of dance and music). It is also believed that people are not permitted to prepare their paddy field for the next harvest before Sakra Misawa Fuja. The Samadi or bachelors’ dormitory forms the nucleus for this dance sequence. Rehearsal of Sakra songs and dance takes place early in October and continues till the time of inauguration of the festival in February or March.  In Bormarjong, the both types of dance performers namely Sakra and Sakra Mura take part in the performance. In Sakra, there are five performers who perform their dance in a circular way. They are known as Teoria, Muding Muchlung, Muting Muchua, Bura and Moch. Teoria, Muding Muchlung and Muting Muchua are known as Tengre. They wear headgears of Khumkhathi which is made of the inner part of a tree. Bura use another type of headgear which is made of a local verity of grass, known as Kohua Bon in Assamese (means Kans grass, scientific name- Saccharum Spontaneum). The Moch use Faguri, a kind of headdress and hold a piece of decorative bamboo. This decorative piece of bamboo is also called as Moch. At the periphery of Sakra, Sakra Mura performs their dance along with them. There are four other performers who wear the banana leaves from the head to toe and they perform dance along with Sakra Mura. It is believed that they protect the Sakra performers and other dance performers from the evil eye. During the period of Sakra Misawa Fuja they are not allowed to enter inside the house. They stay at the outside for whole day and night till the closing stages of Sakra. Pangsi, Khram Khujura and Thurang are the main musical instruments of Sakra Misawa. With the steps Sakra, Misawa all dance and musical performers also sing the Sakra songs. The dance steps and songs are very sluggish. In Sakra Misawa, some people take part in the ritual part, they are known as Lor or Hadari. Sakra performers perform their dance and songs only at the village head men’s places. In Bormarjong village, there are seven numbers of village head men; where Sakra performance takes place serially. When a Sakra performance goes on at any village head man’s place, at the same time the Lor or Hadari recite mantra or chants of Sakra inside that household to praise their deities. The household and other villagers supply the local wine, betel nuts, dry fish etc to the performers on the performance arena.

There are many beliefs related to Sakra Misawa Fuja. Each clan has its own specific belief. According to the Marjong clan of Bormarjong village, one day in an assembly of Saribhai, a flower fell down from the sky. Other deities like Thalya, Thogroya and Balakhongar were also present in that assembly. Thalya said that they should take that flower with them and that flower would help them in future. But when other deities disagreed, then Thalya took that flower and brought it to his home for his children. He thought that his children could play with that flower. Thalya threw that flower where his children were playing. After getting it his children were very happy and intoxicated with energy and started to dance. Thalya, Thogroya and Balakhongar were also overjoyed when they saw the happiness of the children. Then they decided to make a custom. Therefore, two groups of Sakra Misawa Fuja, perform their dance at Bormarjong. One is Korokhia Sakra and another is Kra Sakra. The young boys and Lor, Doloi, Hadari etc participate in Sakra separately; if the boys group faces the other performers like Lor, Doloi Hadari etc, then they have to pay a fine for it.

According to one research scholar of Gauhati University namely Shri Rajiv Kumar Bordoloi, who has done his M A dissertation on “Sokra Misawa: A Folk Festival of Tiwa Community” from Tezpur University, he described that Sakra is a spring time dance festival of Tiwas; where they worshipped the deities of nature.

From my visit to Bormarjong village, I came to surmise that there are many unexplored lore associated with Sakra Misawa Fuja.

The middle part of Assam like Morigaon, Nagaon, Kamrup and Karbi Anglong districts are Tiwa populated areas. The villages of Plain Tiwas are situated in Morigaon, Nagaon and Kamrup districts of Assam. Tetelia village of Morigaon district is one of the villages inhabited of Plain Tiwas. The Tiwas of this village speak a dialect which is a mixture of Assamese and Tiwa language. Cultural assimilation in language, dressing style, religious and cultural practices are remarkable among the Plain Tiwas.  Though the Plain Tiwas of some areas like Tetelia Gaon, Neli speak a mixture of languages, most of the Tiwas of Plain areas use Assamese language as their medium of communication. A section of Plain Tiwas follow Hinduism and are called Saranias. They are followers of Srimanta Sankardeva or Vaishnavite Culture.

In Tetelia village, I Mr Khargeswar Bordoloi’s , who is a mask artist. He learnt the mask making culture from his father. I asked him about the materials used in making masks and the changes in the art over a period of time. In mask making, an artist uses small and thin pieces of bamboo, cloth, clay and dung of cow.  Mr Khargeswar Bordoloi said that earlier many people of Tetelia village were engaged in mask making t. At the time of Barat festival, artists made mask of Barat dance at a common place known as Mukha Hoja Ghar (means house of mask making). According to Khargeswar Bordoloi the new generation is not interested in learning the mask making art.

At Khargeswar Bordoloi’s place, I met three elderly women -Farbeswari Senapati (85), Pateswari Bordoloi (70), Ashadoi Bordoloi (70) who take part in the ritual of the Barat Utsab. Ashadoi Bordoloi is known as Baratani as she plays the chief role in the ritual of the Barat Utsab. The Baratani belongs to Amsi Kul (means clan). Only Amsi Kul women occupy this position traditionally. Tetelia Tiwa Raja Parishad (committee) selects one woman for the position of Baratani from the Amsi Kul. If in case, that woman is not able to take Baratani position for any reason, then it is offered to another woman of the same clan. These women told me that in Barat Utsab, they praise Kechaikhati and Aai Bhagowati. If they can’t satisfy Kechaikhati and Bhagowati then people have to suffer from various kind of disease and death. On the other hand, Mr Khargeswar Bordoloi told me that Fa Mahadeo (Lord Shiva) is the supreme God of Tiwas and they pray him in Brat Festival. In my conversation with these three old women, Mrs Manju Patar helped me as an interpreter who is one of the members of Tetelia Gaon.

I interviewed Mr Ratneswar Bordoloi, the younger brother of Mr Khargeswar Bordoloi. As a member of Tetelia village, Mr Ratneswar Bordoloi is intimately involved with Barat Festival. He has written many articles and a book on Barat festival namely “Usha Barat”. In “Usha Barat”, he described the Barat Festival very briefly and clearly. He said that when he was a small boy, people used Banana leaves to make the roof of the stage of the Barat festival. Use of microphone was prohibited earlier. In Barat songs people mainly describe their feelings, experiences, beliefs and tease each other. In earlier days, through Barat songs boys and girls teased each other and if defeated by someone then he/she had to go with her/him for the whole life. But now people tease each other through their Barat songs for amusement.

My discussion with my collaborator Mr Nadiram Deuri was based on the changes of Barat festival, songs of Barat, mask making and the life style of plain Tiwas and the people of Tetelia Gaon. He said that the middle part of Assam is inhabited by plain Tiwas and therefore they are influenced by the Assamese society. He mentioned some Tiwa villages of the plains like Tetelia, Bhumuraguri, Sarangkuchi, Markangkuchi, Deusal, Silchang, Dorapani, Makoria, Dohali and Kathiatuli where the people use a dialect as a medium of communication which is a mixture of Tiwa and Assamese language. He told that modern Barat songs which he has composed, these are some combination of original Barat songs which are known as Leseri.

We discussed on a very interesting topic regarding the Vaishnavite Culture. Scholarly people like Mr Nadiram Deuri and Tulshi Bordoloi, believe that Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardeva adopted the structure of Monikut (the seat of God at Naamghar) from Naparo (a traditional house) of Tiwas. As Sankardeva was born and brought up at Borduwa of Nagaon district of Assam, he was influenced by Tiwas.

 

 

Arupa Lahiry Report

Excerpts from December 2012 Report

The field trip emerged as an interesting interaction between a classical dancer and a folk artist along with information regarding the basic lifestyle of a Baul saint.

This particular fieldtrip was conducted without prior preparation or a questionnaire allowing the three hours spent in Ghuskara ashram to be spontaneous and dynamic. The conversation freely allowed emergence of certain interesting facts punctuated with lyrical Baul songs. The highlight of the conversation was spirituality in Baul music as well as the learning aspect of this tradition. The conversation started from how my community elder was initiated into the lifestyle of Baul community. Without binding him into a question-answer format we conversed about his childhood which was dramatic and poverty-stricken. What emerged as a conclusion is often for the past one generation the children are sent to Baul elders to learn music as a way to sustain themselves. A big family with many children often the search or initiation in the Baul livelihood is not a romantic or spiritual search but one more realistic… one that of sustenance and survival.

My community elder, Kartick Das has been a self-taught Baul who has survived many an odd. He has been adopted by his guru Shri Kanai Das Baul. What was interesting to observe was that learning in the Baul tradition is very similar to my own gurukulavasam-learning discipline in Bharatnatyam, an Indian classical dance style. Neither a young Baul nor a young serious minded classical dancer is taught in the western class room hour bound fashion. Learning has no clock, nor limit. Songs were taught while ploughing the field and very often like in the classical system the young baul has to offer physical service to Guru’s household. The madhukari is the only way to sustain and begging teaches the Bauls the art of humility.

The discussion proceeded to the distinct dressing style of the Bauls and Kartickda showed us the peculiar way of tying the long flowing tresses of a Baul. It’s tied so that it resembles the female vagina of a human body. The robes are equally flowing symbolising a fluidity of the female body. Kartickda used a term called akarshan in Bengali which translated means power to attract. Whom to attract? For whom is this arrangement? The Hindoo Bauls believe in the philosophy that there is one supreme Man… Krishna. And the bauls are all female followers or Gopis of Krishna. Gobind as he is called or Govinda has to be attracted as he is like quicksilver and slips away before one realises. There was a discussion on the difference between a gayak/ performer Baul and a sadhak/ saint Baul. The different rituals in these two sects demand a difference in lifestyle. The sadhak Baul needs to take a female counterpart who is the intrinsic part of the Bauls meditation. Surprising, the Baul philosophy has ritualised even human union and it is through togetherness the philosophy proposes liberation. Detachment through attachment is what a Baul believes in.

Kartickda also demonstrated how the Khamak or musical instrument of two strings is taught to a young Baul. The bols were like mridangam syllables only more local and indigenous. He spoke about eating rice on a fixed meter drawing inspiration from daily life or how something as banal as food habit can be accommodated in teaching a young boy. Then he went forward to demonstrate the superior prowess of this simple instrument of two strings and how it can parallel a sarod in its own way.

The session also promised of a second session on deho-tatta where the duality of Baul language is going to be discussed.

The session was interesting as it emerged from a free space and flowed in its own pattern. It was also like pointers to the future sessions which will see the two disciplines coming together. The session was informative as it showed us the rhythmic cycles in Baul music and the playing of the percussion, the style of dressing, the signified behind the signifier and the simplicity of the lifestyle.

Conclusion: The session was like a pathfinder in the over researched field of Baul philosophy. Though a community the Bauls are believers of individuality and hence do not have many community rituals. They are individual saints or mendicants in search of a one to one relation with God. And hence, it is difficult for a Baul to indulge in community living.

January 2013 Report

Introduction: The January 2012 field trip covered visits to festivals or fair grounds continuing in a similar line of search of the understanding of body amidst the Baul fakirs and the interaction between classical and folk artists bridging the gap between art forms. This second instalment of the twelve month long fellowship granted from National Folklore Centre also had to put the contingency amount partially in use being inclusive of travel to interior parts of Birbhum. The people interviewed here are Katick Das Baul, my community elder, Tarak Das Baul and various other akhras or groups.

Overview: The field trip was interesting and startling in terms of discovery, as it revealed certain parallel features between a classical dancer and a folk artist along with commonalities shared by Baul and other Bengali folk traditions. The field trips conducted in two Baul-Fakir fairs revealed the influences of urban culture on Baul body and spontaneity.

Report: This particular fieldtrip was conducted with the purpose of documenting as many songs as possible in a format of performance. The purpose was also to meet different Bauls and interact with them to understand their society and culture. The obstacles unseen was the crowd and the gimmick associated with such fairs. Over the years both the Kolkata fair and the original Kenduli have developed as the centre of hedonism. People hang around the Bauls for various forms of intoxication prompting the Bauls either to shut down or pass on information which are half-baked. However the presence of the community elder helped the Tata fellow to cull certain important information that is interesting and completely unheard of before. The highlight of the series of footage was the session with Tarak Das Baul in Kenduli, Jaydev Mela. The conversation started with when was the akhra of Tarak Baul intiated. The flow of conversation continued with Tarakda pointing out towards the rich tradition of Baul, the oral heritage that is passed down generation to generation. He explained the tradition of Khoncha gaan which is much like the Taarja tradition of Bengal where one singer challenges the following singer with particular song. The knowledge reservoir expected out of a Baul is a lost heritage now.

He also spoke about the format a Baul performance used to follow piquing the interest and the similarity it has with the margam pattern of Bharatnatyam. Like a classical dance recital has an opening, middle and end; similarly a Baul performance has a pattern that a Baul must follow. However, the new generation Bauls who are busy with commercial gains are not even aware of such traditions let alone have enough song collection to keep the tradition alive. The songs sung by Tarakda were unusual and spoke about deho-tatta and its spiritual culmination

The other akharas proved to be commercial and disappointing. Kenduli’s biggest akhara Moner- Manush was a melange of Bauls coming and performing as well as musicians of international and national circuit coming and participating in a spontaneous jam. The most interesting of the entire lot were two songs where the community elder of the current research was joined by a Japanese flautist. The spontaneous interaction also revealed the possibility and fluidity of Baul music to lend itself to various interpretations explaining why so many experiments are being done with Baul music. The Moner-Manush akhra also had two other performances (including one by a lady singer) which though included Baul songs wre heavily dependant on Kirtanniya style of Bengal. The experience gave rise to the following questions:

Is there anything called purity in folk art forms?

Do various interpolations destroy the so called true spirit of the art?

Is urbanization destroying the grass-root culture of Baul music?

Is codification taking away the spontaneity from Baul music?

Where do the folk Baul end and the urban Baul begin?

Is public attention destroying Baul culture?

Conclusion: The sessions were interesting as they gave rise to various questions that will be searched for during the course of research. Also with the January documentation what became clear is a strong parallel current between the classical and folk art forms making it easier to do an inter-disciplinary study.

The control of the body and the desire to provide audience with instant enjoyment are leading the Bauls to bypass the songs heavier on philosophy. What remains is a reducing and disappearing collection of songs which needs immediate documentation that the current research is trying to preserve.

Excerpts from February 2013 Report

February saw a leaner approach adapted towards field activities. An urgent need was felt for introspection of the previous fieldtrips undertaken over the month of December and January to decide upon the future course of action.

Hence a break was taken from active fieldtrip. The only exception was an interview conducted on Paban Das Baul, a self acclaimed Baul who has converted his lifestyle under the influence of active urbanization. Preferring jeans and kurta above traditional “gudhri” Paban Das Baul’s conversion to an urban Euro centric Baul-hood has raised many an eyebrow and have earned him brickbats as well as accolades for his decision.

The aim of such a fieldtrip was to understand the encroachment of urbanization on folk art and folk lifestyle. With urbanization changes the definition of understanding of the “Body” which is the central premise of this research. The urban body is a more conscious body and bound up by various instructions existing within the matrix of disciplinary institutionalization. This is in direct contradiction to the Baul philosophy where the “Body” is the sacred space and its only institution. So to move back to the urban space is to in a way destroy the philosophy of the Baul sect. However, how illogical is it to confirm to the demands of the middle class expectations from folk art and its trademark backwardness was the purpose of undertaking such a field work.

 

The interview was conducted in Paban Das Baul’s flat in a elite locality of Kolkata very unlike the “akharas” of Baul which the current fellow had encountered so far in Birbhum. The fellow was also expected to buy the information in exchange of an amount of Rs. 5000/- which was considered as the fees for such an interview. The amount is a price paid as exchange of information.

The questions asked in the interview were:

  • Who is a Baul?
  • What does Paban Das understand to be a Baul?
  • How did Paban Das get initiated into being a Baul?
  • What is the difference between a Performer Baul and a Mystique Baul?
  • What is “Deho-tattya” or Body in Baul Philosophy?
  • When does a Baul dance? Is it a form taught formally?

In addition Paban Das explained to us his experience of opening Baul music upto Western influences and the various rhythmic patterns like “Darbeshi that” available in traditional Baul music.

The question that lies within the heart of the research is the understanding of “Body” in folk and classical art forms. The current fieldwork and revision of the research material provided many insights onto how a Baul treats his body. The various ritualistic approaches adopted by a Baul towards the sacred space of Body come forth both by the revision of previous fieldwork and recent scholarly readings undertaken.

The current fieldwork also pointed the research towards the necessary evil called urbanization that takes a toll on any folk culture. An analysis of it shows how the community has undergone a genetic transmission changing its form from being a folk-philosopher sect to a folk-urban performing sect. A section of society which started its journey as a marginalized one or beyond society today is occupied with the same problems attacking the mainstream. No longer does this folk society struggle under the problems of survival. It is rather the question of protecting the originality of the community that is threatening this over-exposed cult.

The current research also explores the musicality of this particular sect and found itself asking whether there is at all anything called traditional Baul music? What are its notations? What are the tunes it follows? Is there any fixed rule? These are the questions that the research will be addressing in its future fieldwork. It also advanced the fellow’s understanding of a Baul body and its focused dedication towards only the space called “Body”. Unlike the Vaishanavite cults the true blue Bauls do not believe in ritualistic worships. It is the human body which is the temple, provides the ornaments, rituals and understanding of this method called “Sahajiya” worship.

 

The interview provided insight into how urbanization is a necessary evil. In a world of twenty-first century it is impossible to avoid the inroad of urbanization. The interview also showed us the way of how a Baul today can be created out of nowhere much like any other genre of singers. A Baul need not be borne into the philosophy but a Baul can be trained into its singing. Much like a classical dancer a Baul singer too can be created out of practice and training. The spontaneity of Folk art is no longer the basic premise of the Baul tradition taking us to the question what is the tradition of Baul music?

 

Interaction with Paban Das explained how there are two distinct classes of Bauls beyond the division of Baul-Fakir – that is, one sect of Baul is more inclined towards performance and are the performing Bauls whereas the other sect is the mystique sufi Bauls who are practicing saints away from the world. However, as Paban Das repents today’s busy world has left hardly any space for Bauls like Radheshyama Baul, Nabin Chandra das etc who are philosophers of the highest order.

Their songs have spoken about the necessity of worshipping the conjugality or togetherness-Of finding detachment through attachment.

The songs recorded speak about such togetherness in man and woman.

Paban Das also spoke about the madness in Bauls or “khepami” as they call it and the ritualistic dance they perform, untrained but allowing the rhythm of the music take over a body.

The interview or field work of this month helped to understand the division between the Baul clans and how different the body is for a performer Baul or a mendicant Baul.

 

An inordinate curiosity and inexperience had led the fellow to jump into fieldwork without prior preparation. Repeated telephonic conversations led to a few interesting discoveries. The conversations clarified the fact that the common misconception that Muslim sect is the Fakir and the Hindoo sect is called Baul. A Baul/ Fakir has no religion and is not a Vaishnav saint as pointed out by Duddu Shah (a disciple of Lalan Shah) in his songs. It also clarified how close the Baul philosophy is to the theories of Mikhail Bhaktin. Bhaktin explained that the territories are always considered dangerous in human society. Anything that establishes connections with the external is feared or revered in human society. Like menstrual blood of a woman or human faeces. The conversations pointed out how without formalized/ organized religion a Baul is free-floating and beyond society. That is why a Baul is also often marginalized and feared.

This month the interaction with my director helped me to decide on a future plan of action. Post revision necessity was felt to visit Nadia which was earlier not part of the plan. The visit to Nadia was thought necessary to find an alternative line of thought to the Birbhum Bauls and their understanding of their philosophy. It was decided that it will be interesting to observe the Baul philosophy survival and adaptations in a geographic locality so close to the stronghold of Vaishnavism.

 

The interaction was also with Paban Das Baul somehow a marginalized character within the Baul community themselves for his bold statement of embracing change and welcoming it as a fashion statement.

The interactions cleared the future methodology to be undertaken by the current fellow in the course of next three month research.

 

Excerpts from April 2013 Report

The field activity was in the form of an extensive interview conducted with the collaborator. The topic centered around “Deho-tattya” or Body in Baul Philosophy. Collecting rare songs, discussing about the layers of symbolism found in Baul songs and also talking about the kinds of timeline followed in Baul philosophy formed the centre of the discussion.

The questions asked in the interview were:

  • Who is a Baul?
  • What a Baul understand by his body?
  • What is the difference between a Performer Baul and a Mystique Baul?
  • What is “Deho-tattya” or Body in Baul Philosophy?
  • What are the physical rituals involved in Baul philosophy?

The Baul songs were recorded which highlight the “Deho-tattya” philosophy. The songs with the language of symbolism highlight the nine doors/openings in a human body and the six ripus or emotions that control human body.

The interview was conducted in a particular house of Kolkata and was accompanied by Namasankirtanam at the back ground.

 

Prior to the fieldtrip the fellow undertook once again a detailed study of Professor Sudhir Chakraborty’s Baul Fakir Katha. The book provided a starting point afresh for the research and refurbished it with unknown facts about Deho tatta. The book provides startling facts like the Baul’s body especially a female Baul’s body is inspected after conjugal experience by the guru or his/ her senior disciples to understand whether the practioner has successful y incorporated the lessons or not. Baul philosophy is about control in ecstasy and the Baul’s sexual organs are hence inspected to understand whether he/she has succeeded in mastering that control or not. The book helped the fellow frame questions for her collaborator where she could ask the various meanings of the words highlighted through Baul music.

The book provides a take off point as the author steadfastly avoids any conclusive stand allowing the researcher onto various different paths without clouding his/her opinion. The book also opens eyes to the difference between regions, classes and sects even within the broader spectrum called “Baul”.

This particular chapter helped the fellow delve into the differences between a Baul and a Vaishnav and bring forth the collaborator’s ides on this particular topic.

The question that lies within the heart of the research is the understanding of “Body” in folk and classical art forms. The current fieldwork and revision of the research material provided insights onto how Baul and his songs treat his body. The various ritualistic approaches adopted by a Baul towards the sacred space of Body come forth both by the revision of previous fieldwork and recent scholarly readings undertaken. The songs which spoke about the hidden body under the wraps of social clothing and which has the power to disturb/ awaken depending on the person participating in the activity was invigorating. The song which spoke about the division within the body as three floors was an eye opener to the use of language in Baul music. That the mind is equated to the functioning of the court while the stomach/ heart of the middle floor are like businessmen only concerned with the functioning/ business of the body and the lowest part is the section which elevates you to the highest self forwarded the research into its understanding of the body within the scope of the research. The songs analyzed how a human body is also formed from mere thought which is there in the mind of the Father and then added to the body of the Mother to create a full human being.

The fellow found it rather difficult to ask such intimate questions to a male Baul and hence is in the lookout for a female Baul to understand the concepts of intriguing sexuality in Baul philosophy. Though most of the Bauls are ready to answer the problem also lies in the fact that owing to rapid urbanization Bauls are left with singing as a profession and not many veer towards the path of sadhana.

Homebound, glamour calling the bauls is fast becoming dissociated from their understanding of the body. The only ties that remain are the songs penned down by philosophers who understood and played around with the body.

The current research also explores the musicality of this particular sect and found itself asking whether there is at all anything called traditional Baul music? The Baul philosophy divides the music into division over the course of the day. It includes songs dedicated to Krishna out cow herding while it also speaks about the evening pain where the Lord is still not back. The pain is also a symbol of the lack of knowledge at the end of the life.

The songs have spoken about the necessity of worshipping the conjugality or togetherness-Of finding detachment through attachment.

The songs recorded speak about such togetherness in man and woman.

The songs highlight the independence of women within this particular class of Philosophers. It also impressed the fellow that ages before the advent of feminism the Baul philosopher could realize that without worshipping or understanding a woman and her body there can be no way to liberation.

 

This particular interaction was absolutely necessary for understanding the dehotatta philosophy in Baul-hood.

The community elder patiently explained the concept of body, the hidden lanes of body, lacing it with rare songs to highlight his conversation. The songs were essential in taking the research forward on the path of the concept of “understanding body in a classical and folk art forms. It was also clear that there are myriads of similarity between different folk forms in India. The concept of navarasa found an interesting parallel in Baul philosophy. The concept of controlling eroticism or “kama” by placing it on the top of emotions is also seen and explored within the disciplined boundaries of classicism. The concept of songs placed over the duration of aday and night, ragas based on different quarters of the day was something the community elder was drawing attention to again and again. However, he also acknowledged that most of the baul music is put together by unknown, unschooled singers and hence there are no fixed rules/ disciplines/ grammar in Baul music. An oral tradition few popular songs owing to oft repeated performances have attained a fixed structure. Otherwise Baul music like its practioners is free and flowing, borrowing influences and inspirations from all over. Kartick Das also spoke about the Tagorean influence on propagating and popularizing Baul music a fat that was highlighted earlier by Paban Das Baul in previous interviews.

 

Excerpts from May 2013 Report

 

The field activity was in the form of an extensive interview conducted with the collaborator and Ranajit Gonsai. The team travelled in the month of May to the interiors of West Bengal in Nadia district. Though there are Baul concentration areas in Birvhum, Bankura yet Nadia was selected keeping two purposes in mind. Nadia being geographically close to Bangladesh and being a hub of Vaishnavism came across as a perfect location for the next step. The journey took about 4.5 hours one way as Ranajit Gonsai’s ashram was approximately 30/ 40 kilometers beyond Plassey. Though the team had aimed to reach by 12 noon by the time the ashram was located owing to lack of landmarks and unfamiliarity of the terrain it was 3pm. Gonsai was also missing for the last couple of days and the team had almost given up its expectations of doing any constructive fieldwork that particular day. Not to mention the fact that the journey undertaken was a costly affair and a hectic planning to match timetables of four collaborators. However, the warmth and love which Gonsai’s family showered on the team thawed our reservations and fortunately Gonsai turned up after being amiss from home for the last three days. Work started in the nearby mango grove in the heat of May where the temperature stood at a boiling 40 degree. However, Gonsai’s experience and seniority in the field made the experience very satisfying and informative. Discussion of various literary terms, allusions in songs and recording of songs were done during this session. The fellow was also asked to participate by playing bells and keeping time along with the Baul music which made the session fun.  The discussion revolved around “Deho-tattya” or Body in Baul Philosophy. Discussion of the dual rituals, the procedure of diksha was discussed and recorded. Interesting point to be mentioned is the entire discussion was undertaken after Gonsai smoked a entire chillum which restored him to a state to talk and sing.

The questions asked in the interview were:

  • Who is a Baul?
  • What a Baul understand by his body?
  • What is “Deho-tattya” or Body in Baul Philosophy?
  • What are the physical rituals involved in Baul philosophy?
  • What are the rituals undertaken during “diksha”
  • Is a Baul a Vaishnav? What are the similarities in these two sects?
  • What is the meaning of the word “Jante-mora” or living dead?
  • Pala gaan or the sawal jabab system in Baul music

The Baul songs were recorded which highlight the “Deho-tattya” philosophy. The songs with the language of symbolism highlighted the experience of conjugal relation and yet transcendence of mere conjugality.

This particular fieldtrip was very important as Gonsai’s knowledge and expertise has fuelled the research. He patiently explained each of the questions. His songs were rare and not one of those oft repeated oft sung song list. He always explained to the fellow what was the tradition of “Palagaan” in Baul ,usic. A tradition fast eroding and disappearing, the pala gaan tradition was sung and explained by Gonsai. How it was expected that a song when it is thrown at one of the singers will be answered back by him through another song unfortunately the new generation of urban Bauls lack the depth and hence this particular tradition which was famous in Nadia is dying.

He also explained the term “Jente –mora” or living dead and how the Baul philosophy is all about prevention of exchange or ejaculation during conjugal relationship. It is about how to be detached during attachment or transcend the eros or erotic relationship. All that was read previously in Baul Fakir’s Katha was reconfirmed by Ranajit Gonsai. He also sang songs which added a referential time frame and it was easy to understand the colonial influence through reference of words like “Angrz” referring to English men and their cars which is the train. There was also reference to foreign words like “steamer” making the Fellow realize that colonial invasion in the worlds of Bauls.

 

This month’s fieldwork made the fact clear to the Fellow that it is important now at this juncture to interview a female counterpart in Baul philosophy. Though a lot of things are explained through symbolic discussion by male Baul singers/ practioners ,it is difficult to comprehend everything.

It also made the Fellow realize that for a Baul the ultimate is the body. As Gonsai explained, a Baul is one who is aware of the “ba” or Batash which goes in and out of the body. The body is the home for the breath or air. The body houses the soul. The soul is dressed in pitambar clothes or is Krishna the ultimate purush for Baul singers.

The stress given to finding the correct maaner manush or guru was also brought forth in this particular session. The guru is the one who initiates a disciple on the path of knowledge which a Baul cannot undergo alone.

A baul is beyond societal rules, beyond caste, beyond religion. He begins with his body and ends with his body was what the songs and discussions of this particular session highlighted.

 

This particular interaction was inclusive of three interacting participants. Ranajit Gonsai was an artist selected by my community elder Kartick Das Baul after much deliberation. Though I was interested in recording a different set of Bauls called Akas and Arman and Arjun Fakir, Kartick Das suggested that since I was looking for Pala Gaan tradition, Ranajit Gonsai being elderly will be a good choice.

Trusting my community elder’s advice I went to record Ranajit Gonsai and I was moved by his knowledge and experience. A humble and quiet man his expertise in playing dubki (the percussion) was eye catching. Also he was aware of the questions I asked and patiently answered them with humility. Kartick Das Baul’s advice was beneficial at the end of the day.

Along with that it was two Baul singers interacting with each other, discussing and clearing their own doubts. It was interesting to watch them singing and supporting each other, initiating discussions and helping each other.

The community bonhomie came across during this interactive and live session.

The community elder also asked questions that I wanted to ask…. Egging on Gonsai more towards discussion of Deho-tatta and its meaning in Baul principle.

Gonsai explained the term living dead and how life is about enjoying and yet transcending the enjoyment.

Gonsai explained about the Marfati and Sariyati styles of worship in Islam and went on to tell the interesting life he has led in Bangladesh, Murshidabad and Nadia. He being trained in Islam and Vaishnavism became the perfect example of Baul beyond the religion and caste.

They both also spoke about the diversity within Baul philosophy and how it is just a matter of realization for each individual. Ultimately it is a path that needs to be walked by each one of us.

 

Saswati Report

Saswati Bordoloi

 

Excerpts from December 2012 Report

Collection of Folk calendar of Plain Karbi community

Chokordo is an area where Plain Karbis are living. This place is famous for plain Karbis and their folk custom. World famous deepor  beel is situated here.     I met Ajoy Bey and his Mother Dipali Beypi.  Both of them are relatives of my collaborator Sri Lakshman Teron. At first I discussed with them about the folk customs of plain Karbis which are mainly related with environment. In fact all the customs of plain Karbis are basically related to environment. The customs are-

1) Dehalor Rongker Puja                2) Johong Puja                                                3) Bat-Bheta Puja

4) Community fishing                                     5) Lakhimi Adora  Puja.

Then I collected the folk calendar (local calendar)of plain Karbi community. This calendar will help me to collect information cum data in a scedule.      AjoyBey and DipaliBeypi informed me that basically community fishing starts on the month of Magh(January-February).     Dehal or Rongker  Puja starts on the first Tuesday of  Fagun (February-March),    Johong Puja starts on Bohag month ( April),    Bat Bheta Puja starts on middle of Jeth month (May-June)    Above all the customs arranged as socially but Lakhimi -Adora Puja aranged as personally  .

Deepor beel- diverse natural beauty of plain Karbi community Dipor Bil, also spelt Deepor Beel (Bil or Beel means “lake” in the local Assamese language), is located to the south-west of Guwahati city, in Kamrup district of Assam, India. It is a permanent freshwater lake, in a former channel of the Brahmaputra River, to the south of the main river. It is also called a wetland under the Ramsar Convention which has listed the lake in November 2002, as a Ramsar Site for undertaking conservation measures on the basis of its biological and environmental importance. It is located 13 km South West of Guwahati on the National Highway (NH 31), on the Jalukbari-Khanapara bypass, alongside its north western boundary. PWD road skirts the northern fringe of the Rani and Garbhanga Reserve Forests on the south. The National Highway 37 borders the beel on the east and north-east and the Engineering College Road on the north. Also, minor roads and tracts exist in the vicinity of the beel. The Beel is about 5 km from the Guwahati Airport (GNB Int. Airport). Broad Gauge Railway line skirts the lake.The plain Karbi community of this area are very much depended on this world famous beel. In fact, both the plain Karbis and deepo rbeel are interrelated. This deepor beel relates also with the customs of plain Karbis of this area. This beel becomes a part of daily life style of plain Karbis. Ordinary people start their daily life with a hope of living and this hope gives only this Deepor beel. Without this Deepor beel, there are no existences of plain Karbis of this area.Not only people are depended on this beel, but also cattle or animals like elephant, deer, and cows are depended on this beel. The Dipor Bill is reported to provide, directly or indirectly, its natural resources for the livelihood of plain Karbi communities located in its precincts. Freshwater fish is a vital protein and source of income for this community; the health of these people is stated to be directly dependent on the health of this wetland ecosystem. ‘MIGRATORY BIRDS’- one of the most attractive thing of this Deepor beel. Migratory birds are coming into this beel from the month of October last and early November, when winter season arrives. The birds are coming from the side of Australia, Europe, and America etc. There are two types of birds coming into this season. One is Indian and other is foreign. The first one is coming from the various parts of India, i.e., Ladakh, North-East India side and second one is coming from the various parts of world. Bernswellew, purple heron, little egret, intermediate egret, greater egret, cattle egret, black kite etc. birds are local but coming from different parts of our country. Ruddy shell duck, Pelican, Northern Pintail, Gadwall, Tufted duck, Plover etc. birds are migratory, coming from different parts of world.viz, Ruddy shell duck is a beautiful bird and this migratory birds comes from Ladakh, Combodia and China side. Pelican is also a migratory birds, coming from Australia.

 

Excerpts from January 2013 report

I met my collaborator  Lakshman Teron and discussed with him also about my research work for January . He informed me about the community fishing of Jonbeel area and also informed me the Jon beel fair , which is a symbol of unity of various tribes. He informed me that the plain Karbis are situated also in Jonbeel and Sonapur area and for the community fishing the plain Karbis of different places meet together. Interestingly, the other tribes like Tiwa, Boro, Kacharis are also meet and fish together.

Community fishing of Jon beel –

This place actually is a wetland and this area 5 k.m. far from Jagiroad in Morigaon district of Assam and 32  k.m. far  from Guwahati. This wetland is famous for community fishing; which is held on occassion of ‘BhogaliBihu’ (of the month of January). The famous ‘Jonbeel fair’ held on here. This fair is famous for ‘Exchange system’ (‘Binimoypratha’).I visited the wetland to focus on community fishing. In fact, the wetland Jon beel is a place of unity of different tribes. On the day of community fishing various types of tribes viz, Plain Karbis, Tiwa, Boro etc. and also non-tribal people like Assamese meet at the Jon beel -the wetland together. They are all meet together for community fishing.

‘Community fishing’ is one of the characteristics of the folk customs of plain Karbis. The plain Karbis meet and start to fish collectively on the occassion of ‘MaghBihu’ or ‘Bhogalibihu’ (in ‘Makarsankranti’ – January month). Actually it is a recreation of plain Karbis. Their enjoyment, happiness is reflected through community fishing. The plain Karbis are always trying to protect their environment. Hence, in this community fishing they always use their natural fishing equipment rather than commercial equipments. They use ‘Polo’, ‘Jakoi’, ‘Khaloi’ etc. natural equipments; but they have been using the ‘Jaal’ (net) since a long time. ‘Polo’, ‘Jakoi’, ‘Khaloi’ are made from bamboo. There are a fixed  measurement for making these equipments. 1 and 1/2 or 2 feet is necessary for making ‘Polo’ and ‘Jakoi’. ‘Khaloi’ is actually a pot type, where caught fishes are stored. In Chokordo area it (community fishing) is among plain Karbis. But in Jon beel  various tribes (Plain Karbis, Tiwa, Boro )congregate.  In fact, through this community fishing of Jon beel it reflects the unity of the tribal culture. The famous and historic fair ‘Jonbeel’ starts with community fishing in the Jon beel wetland. The theme of the community fishing is harmony and brotherhood amongst the various tribes and communities scattered in the North- East India.  My collaborator LakshmanTeron informed me about the famous Jonbeel fair and also about the community fishing and the motive of that community fishing. So, I visited the historic place and observed the community fishing of various tribes. I collected the still photographs of community fishing and also recorded the video shoots on community fishing and the fishing equipments. I met the people of various tribes and talked with them regarding the community fishing and their feelings about it. I met Arjun Rongpi, a Plain Karbi and asked him about community fishing. He informed me that it was a great experience because on that day various types of people like Plain Karbis, Tiwa ,Boro etc. came from different places and all  the communities caught fish together. He also informed me that the community fishing is one of the important customs of Plain Karbis. I took an interview of him on community fishing and recorded his information. Mr. Rongpi is not a fisherman, but he came here only for the occasion.Then I met Leelabala Deka and Jyoti Saikia (Koch women). I asked them also about that community fishing and their feelings. They informed me that they were very happy because of that occasion. They were coming Jon beel for catching fish only on that special day every year. I met Anup Deka, a local boy (Assamese boy). He was coming Jonbeel with his uncle for community fishing. I asked him regarding the fishing equipments. He informed me about the names of fishing equipments .Then I met two other plain Karbi people , Haren Bey and Krishna Rongpi . Both of them are inhabitants of Sonapur . I asked them about the names of fishing equipments. They informed me about the fishing equipments and their exact measure. They informed me that ‘Jakoi’ and ‘Polo’ are made from bamboo and their measurement basically belongs to 1 and 1/2 to 2 feet, and the measurement of ‘Khaloi’ is 1 feet. I took an interview on the information and recorded it. I met  various types of people like plain Karbis, Tiwa, Koch, Assamese etc. and observed that they were all busy in community fishing ; they were doing  it without any hesitation; in fact, there was no restriction in catching fishes.

The ‘Exchange system'(barter) is one of the important activity of this fair. Actually one can say that the ‘Jonbeel fair’ is an important part of folklore. The ‘cock fighting’ is an interesting folk game. The plain Karbis, Tiwa, Kacharietc tribes play this folk game. This folk game is an important part of the folk customs of plain Karbis. I visited the famous ‘Jonbeel fair’ . This fair is in fact a community fair. Various tribes viz, Plain Karbi, Tiwa, Boro, kachari etc. tribes are coming here from the different places.

The hill tribes (hill Karbis, hill Tiwas, khasietc) come here and carrying  their  hill produce food items and exchange it with  the food produce items of plain tribes like Plain Karbis, plain Tiwa, boro, kachari etc. It is one and only exchange system where exchange beyond on food items of hill and plain tribes rather than money. Then I observed the traditional folk game – ‘Kukurajujh’ (cock fighting). It is a folk game of various tribes like plain Karbi, Tiwa, kachari etc. I met Kushal Bordoloi and asked about the cock fighting and the rules of the game. He informed me that this traditional folk game is not only of Tiwas but also Plain Karbis enjoy and plays this game .In fact the folk game is a part of folk custom of plain Karbis. It enriches the customs of plain Karbis.

 

 

Excerpts from February 2013 report

RONGKER- a festival of plain Karbis

Rongker is an annual springtime festival of plain Karbis. It is observed in order to appease the local deity(Lord Shiva) , associated with the welfare of the village and their harvest , and to get rid of all evil. This festival is held on the first Tuesday of the first week of ‘Falgun’ month (i.e., on February month ). This festival is an interesting and important part of folk custom of plain Karbis. In this festival, goats and cocks are sacrificed to Lord Shiva.I met my collaborator Lakshman Teron and discussed with him about the ‘Rongker’ festival. He informed that ‘Rongker’ festival is the main and important festival of plain Karbis of entire Assam. This festival is in fact a worship to appease Lord Shiva. The Karbis of hill call it ‘Rongker’ and the plain Karbis call it as’Dehal Kasidom’ . ‘Dehal’ means ‘Devota’ (Lord) and ‘Kasidom’ means ‘Sewa/ Puja kora’ (worship).My collaborator informed me about the rituals of this festival. On the day of festival all plain Karbis gather and engage in activity connected to the festival i.e. some of them collect banana leafs, some collect areca nut, bamboo, some of them cut the bamboos for different purposes; for storing water, drinking etc., collect fruits, cocks and goats for sacrifice etc. Lakshman Teron informed me that plain Karbis are very much associated with environment and nature. ‘Rongker’ festival is also associated with the environment and nature. The plain Karbis use bamboo, banana leafs, areca nut, different types of fruits etc. According to plain Karbis banana leafs, Tulsi, areca nut etc. are sacred. In fact they use bamboos for different interesting reasons, i.e., for keeping water and drink rather than artificial glass etc.

The day before Rongker festival , the plain Karbis gather and collect ‘dhol’ (drum) , ‘kali’ (whistle) etc. from the house of ‘Banthai’ and go to the river bank  to sanctify them (‘Dhol’,’Kali’ etc.) and purify themselves with holy water. They come to the house of ‘Banthai’ and sacrifice a cock to God. I went to Dholbama village and met Bipul Kathar and observed the rituals related to’Dehal Kasidom’ or ‘Rongker. All plain Karbi people met that day and went to the bank of the river for ‘Birkilut’. ‘Birkilut’ is a ritual of plain Karbis ; it is related to ‘Dehal Kasidom’. Actually from this process people sanctify themselves. Then they prayed and offer an egg and their traditional drink (‘Juguli’) to God. When they came to the residence of Banthai, the main priest sacrificed a cock and offer to God in ‘Dehalghar’ of Banthai.

On the day of fastival ‘Dehal Kasidom’, the main priest sharpens the holy weapons (‘BOLI KATA DAA’) in themorning. Then people are busy making ‘Mala’ and cut the bamboo, banana tree and leafs into proper pieces. They collect varieties of fruits and rice etc. for this festival. In fact, main ‘Puja’ is started from evening. People are busy in different works (related to fastival) from morning. From midday people are busy in arranging and tying areca nuts with ‘Tulsi’ leafs and betel leaves. The main priests are busy in arranging ‘Axon’ to God. People play Dhol and Kali throughout the puja. Moheswar Teron informed me that Rongker and Dehal Kasidom are the same. They informed me about the rituals which are related to Dehal Kasidom. First the Malas are offered to God and then plain Karbis are also wear it. I met Ronjit Rongpi and Sosen Teron and they told about the subject of sacrifice. Goats and Cocks are used for sacrifice to God. I also met the main priest Nobin Ingti and discussed about the ‘Axon’ (plates which are full of banana, apple, areca nuts leaves, coconuts etc. and these ‘Axon’ are offered to God). He informed me that ‘Axon’ are arranged for both ‘Dehal ghar’ (main temple or holi place) and also for ‘Baro Gopal than’. ‘Baro Gopal than’ is situated near the main Dehal ghar’. Goats and cocks are sacrificed in both places.

Excerpts from March 2013 report

‘Bohag maah’ – is the new year of plain Karbis (Bohag month is also new year of other tribes ). It carries a new hope, new beginning for them. So, plain Karbis are busy before one month (from ‘Choitra maah’ i.e., March  to welcome this new year ).The life of plain Karbis reflects their own identity . The plain Karbis are very much simple by nature and so their life style is also simple. They believe and have faith in nature. Hence, it can be said that their folk custom is mainly related to environment. I met  my collaborator  Lakshman Teron and discussed with him how plain Karbi prepare to welcome  their new year. He informed me that plain Karbi women are busy weaving new cloth during this time like ‘Mukhsha’ (towel) , ‘Mekhla’ (goun), ‘Chador’ etc. On the occasion of new year plain Karbi women present ‘Mukhsha’ to their love ones. In this ‘Chaitra’ (March) month plain Karbi people go to the hills to collect fire wood for the rainy season. The plain Karbi people are very simple in nature. The plain Karbis are mainly farmers by profession. They use simple equipments for cultivation rather than modern and scientific equipments. They use ‘Kodal’, ‘Moi’, ‘Nangol’ etc. for crop cultivation.

I met Nabin Ingti (the priest of Dehal ghar of Dholbama) and discussed their preparation before new year (Bohag month- middle of  April month).He informed me that women are busy in this time to collect fire woods from hills. This is the time of preservation of fire wood for the rainy seasons. They go to ‘Chaeraerae  Gosai Pahar’ (name of the hill) and collect fire wood .But they never climb this hill. Because they believe that this hill symbolizes their deity. If they collect fire woodthen ill luck would befall them. I met Ganeshri and Mamoni Ingti and asked about their weaving. They told me that they were weaving ‘Mukhsha’ and ‘Mekhela’ for the occassion of Bohag month. They use green thread, ‘Ranch’ (made from bamboo, using for weaving), ‘Chaeraeki’ ,’ugha’  for this weaving. In this time people are busy in making ropes for tying cows in the New Year. It is a ritual to tie the cow with a new rope. This rope is made from ‘Odal’ tree, not from jute. I went to see with Sunil Ingti,to the ‘Odal’ tree and how ropes are made from it. Sunil Ingti informed me that people dry the trunks (parts of this tree) in the sun  and prepare very thin strands out of it, thus creating fine rope from these tree trunks. Then Sunil Ingti informed about their instruments used for farming. Kodal, Moi, Nangol etc. are generally used in farming. Then I met Neela Rongpi Ingti and I observed their kitchen. From this kitchen reflects their lifestyle. They do not use modern kitchen equipments for cooking.

Excerpts from April 2013 report

Johong Puja

I met my collaborator Lakshman Teron and discussed the Johong Puja. He informed me that Johong Puja is an important ritual of the folk custom of plain Karbis. It is related to the environment as it is held to please Almighty Johong (Lord Shiva) and other 33 crore gods to keep the environment safe. They believe that through this Puja their crops and surrounding nature and environment will be protected. So it is held in a new month i.e. ‘Bohag’ month.This Puja is held for seven days. The first day of this Puja, they wash cows etc. in the morning and in evening they go for ‘Birkilut’ (sanctifying them) on the bank of the river. They believe that through this ‘Birkilut’ their sins would be absolved. Then they come back to ‘Gosai Than’ (Holi place of the village) and light diyas, offer rice, ginger, mustard oil and bananas to the Almighty. They offer these items on banana leaf, which is called ‘Axon’. They arrange 33 ‘Axon’ for the name of 33 crore gods. On the second day of this puja, in the morning, people make ‘Mala’ for offering the deity. The mala is made from ‘Odal’ (Odal tree) and ‘Nahar’  and in the evening, they clean the holy place and again light diyas and offer rice, ginger, betel nut , leaves and ‘Sansiri’ (a mixture of ground rice made by frying  the rice without oil  and then ground)to Almighty. They offer all these items on a banana leaf on 33 plates (‘axon’).People play ‘Dhol’ and ‘Kali’ during Puja time. Then they place the ‘Mala’ on sharp holy weapons (‘Boli Kata daa’) and on the pots(made from bamboo) of drink. They sacrifice the cocks to the Almighty Johong and a white goat for Goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva (Johong).?Then they fry the meats and ‘Posola’ (made from banana trank) and offer to Almighty and put these on 33 plates for the 33 crore gods. The third, fourth, fifth and sixth day of this Puja, only main diya is lit in the holy place. The last day of this Puja, i.e. seventh day is called ‘Johong bidai’. In the evening , people dance and play ‘Dhol’ and ‘Kali’ , prepare an item called ‘Chatni’ (pickle from ‘Posola’ and offer on 33 plates. They also offer rice and drink.

On the second day of Johong Puja plain karbis are busy making ”malas” in the morning and in the evening, they are busy arranging ‘‘Axon’’ (Ashan) i.e., the special place for Almighty . They arrange 33 ”Axon” for the 33 crore Gods. They bring a cock for sacrifice and a white goat for Goddess ”Parvati”. During the puja time people play ”dhol” and ”Kali” .After the puja they dance. I met my collaborator and asked about the puja . He told me about the rituals of puja . He showed me the worshiping place and it is held in his front yard. Then I met Sanjoy Bey and Ajoy Bey and asked them about the value of making ” mala’’, they told me that ” mala” is made from the ”Odal” tree and ”Nahar” tree, not from jute. Then I observed the works of making ”mala” .In the evening I observed that people were coming and started to arrange ”axon” .They make a pack of rice, ginger, betel nuts and leafs and tulsi leaves and keep it on the ”axon” .Then I observed people brought cocks to sacrifice and  praying in front of ”axon” , sacrificed them.

The last day of Johong puja is known as Johong bidai. On this day people gather at the residence of Banthai and women fry rice without oil and grind it. Men make malas for offering almighty. The main priest arranges axon .Then they bring fried dry fish and mix with ‘‘posola’’,and they keep it in axon with the holy drink  . Then the priests chant mantras and people pray to keep the environment good .During the puja time they play dhol and kali and dance. On that day I met first Golapi Kathar and asked her about puja rituals. Numoli Fangsho infromed me that the first day of Johong puja known as ”Birkilut” day, second day is known as ‘jugan’ , 3rd day is known as sacrificing day ,4th day people meet and have community feast. 5th and 6th day people dance and the 7th day is known as johong bidai . It seems that the rituals of Johong puja varies from place to place .Then I met Nabin Ingti and his family. I asked Nabin Ingti regarding the same topic because he is a priest of Johong Puja. He told me about the rituals of Johong Puja and specially about the Johong Bidai .I observed from the evening people were coming to the residence of Banthai and women were busy in frying rice without oil and grinding it. Men were making mala to offer the almighty. Then the main priest Khargeswar Fangso came and started to arrange the axon. They put rice and banana on the axon .Then Nabin Ingti offered the mala to almighty as well as the people gathered and showered rice powder along with the chanting of mantras .All the time people were playing dhol and kali. Finally they prayed and danced.

 

 

 

 

 

Arup Bordoloi Report

Excerpts from November 2012 report

The requirements for the documentation and research work have been discussed with the collaborator so that the elderly artiste can assess the needs for the project and can provide guidance, support and information accordingly.

After the above discussion a few probable dates and days have been identified for documentation, as the performance of the Bhari Gan play is organised only on certain occasions of the year in certain areas. It has been decided to have a detail discussion with the collaborator on the practices and tradition of his group on 21st  November 2012. The event that has been identified for the recent oncoming days is the Ai Than Mela, a three day traditional religious fair, to be held during 2nd week of January 2013 (starting from 11th of the Puh month of the Assamese Calendar) where Bhari Gan performances are a part and parcel of the event.

As per the prescheduled programme the village of the collaborator has been visited on 21st November, 2012 for field work. The name of the village is Khamari and the location is P.O.: Chotomatia, Dudhnoi, District Goalpara, Assam-783126. As requested, the Bhari Gan group of the collaborator has organised a demonstration performance for discussion and documentation. The name of the Bhari Gan performing group is Khamari Nayapara Bharigan Dal comprising around 33 members where the collaborator Sri Ushini Rabha is the chief performer called Mul or Ojah. This group performs two plays namely Dodhi Mathan and Sita Puri Ravan Badh Nat. The Dodhi Mathan play deals with the childhood episode of Lord Krishna and the Sita Puri Ravan Badh Nat is the story of the purity test of Sita from Ramayana. While the Dodhi Mathan play is generally enacted in day hours, the Sita Puri Ravan Badh Nat is performed in the night.

Most of the members of the troupe assembled in the residence of the collaborator and performed some portions of the Sita Puri Ravan Badh Nat. The collaborator and other elderly performers of the troupe have explained various aspects of the Bhari Gan tradition of their group like the time of origin of their group, occasions or events of performances, rehearsal and management system, different stages/ sequences of the play, salient features, musical instruments, masks, beliefs etc. These have been documented through still photography apart from the noting down the important aspects.

Besides the enactment of the principal play they also perform some humorous scenes in between, which they called Bhaona, for the amusement of the audience. There may be more than one such comic scene in a single performance depending upon the responds of the audience and the theme of the scenes also of varied in nature. The troupe also enacted a humorous scene on the theme those who steal fish from others may be harassed by ghost. Starting from costumes to dialogue, here the principal effort throughout the scene is remains to create humour. There are no fixed dialogues for the conversations which the characters create instantly during the performance. The humorous scene the group has performed during the field visit has been documented through still photography.

It has revealed in the discussion that sometimes the Bhari Gan performances are presented without the dramatic representations. Such performances only with recitation of the songs are known as Padawali.

 

 

 

Purnasmriti Kalita report

Excerpts from February 2013 report

As I already planned to continue fieldwork in the month of February, I started it right away from at a Bodo speaking village under the Rowta area of Udalguri district, BTAD (Assam). The aim of this fieldwork was to see the role of Siphung in the marriage custom of the Bodos. There is a traditional way of welcoming the bride and groom to the wedding mandap. While welcoming them the traditional kherai music is played. I recorded the moment when bride and groom are welcome. After welcoming them to the wedding mandap some wedding formalities are done and then two to five Bathou Arojis sung in form of worshiping the Bathou deity. I recorded two Bathou Arojsongs. However, it was a nice experience for me to observe an important social ritual like a wedding.
Then, I went to Debargaon area of Kokrajhar district of BTAD to observe the 11th Bodoland Day celebration on 10 February. It is the Bodoland Territorial Council Accord Day (10 February, 2003). I observed the same last year also. From my experience in last year I could see the diverse cultural programmes organised there including varieties of Bodo folk songs and dances. So, I planned to observe the same this year also. But, as it did not include any cultural programme this year, unfortunately, I could not collect any field datum from there.
One the same day, I travelled back from Kokrajharto Guwahati to collect some data from Shankardev Kalakshetra premises. I could hardly manage to observe the cultural event held there.
I am fascinated with this kind of work, but the burning situation in the Bodoland Territorial Area makes it very much difficult to go places to places as no one can predict about when the area remains bandh (general strike), sometimes until unknown point of time. Bandh has been a culture in the area due to mass clashes. So, going and roaming in the area concerned has been very much risky and difficult. Still I think it is not that unmanageable thing to do my fieldwork.
The work on Bodo musical instruments and performing art need to be included in the resource for folkloristic research of the community concerned as well as other tribal communities of the North-East India. While doing fieldwork on Siphung, a traditional musical instrument of the Bodos one can witness the rich music-dance culture of this community in rituals like religious, marriage, seasonal, etc. The kind of work I have done in my fieldwork covers the traditional customs, ideas, and social behaviour of the Bodo people of North-East India.Thus, the results of my fieldwork can make one of the good resources for Bodo folklore.
The Bodo people make use of the accompaniment of the music of almost all the five traditional musical instruments, viz., khaam, siphung, jathaa, serja and tharkhaa along with other additional instruments at the time of almost all the religious, marriage and seasonal festivals. Amongst them, khaam, siphung and jathaa are the integral parts of all forms of traditional music in Bodo. But, in some traditional songs like some folk songs and some typical Bwisagw songs tabla is also played as a substitution of khaam. The most common musical instrument that played in almost all traditional cultural occasions is siphung which can substitute even a song. Thus, while going to work on siphung, almost all traditional song-dance occasions are observed. So, my fieldwork would help in scholarly research in the field of the song-dance tradition of the Bodos.
For this month, i.e. February, I had a plan to continue fieldwork in some rural areas where the Bodo people live. But, as only few traditional cultural occasions are found to be observed, I could not collect enough data from the fields I visited. And, as my community elder is not much familiar with Bodo traditional instrument players, it was not so easy for me to select some other community artists in the concerned field of work. Moreover, due to his old age, my community elder does not have enough strength to collaborate in all the work I use to do for my project. So, has been so much difficult for me to arrange to visit different fields of my work myself. However, I have taken help of my local guide Dr. Anil Kumar Boro in choosing different areas to collect data for my project. And, in most times I arrange to take help of a few community consultants.
My collaborator is very experienced and knowledgeable in traditional cultural song-dance area. But, as he is too much old to evoke his knowledge about the Bodo folk music and dance, it is not easy for me to have timely interactions with him. The other reason is that he is staying with his ill wife, which makes him take all the care of her and himself. Another problem is that I cannot come into contact with him over phone as he does use mobile or landline phones as he his hard of hearing. So, though I visit his place frequently I hardly meet him once or twice a month. However, he is a very nice person to work with and he is well informed. As par I know about the Bodo traditional music, he has extensive knowledge about the musical instruments of the Bodos, how to make musical instruments, how to play them, when to play them, etc. It is worth mentioning here that only a few artists know about the 18 types of Kherai Dance and fewer artists know how to perform these different types. I am very much fortunate to have my community elder/artist of the second category.
My community artist is still attached with the cultural group he established and handed it later to his daughter. So, he often keeps visiting places to places across the states of Indian nation to accompany his group.
In the typical Bwisagw songs, the Bodo people use other musical instruments- Harmonium and Tabla. It would make another sense with the accompaniment of the music of Siphung.This period of seven days’ time is celebrated as the New Year Days in North-East India when almost all hearts and minds of the tribal people of North-East India including Assamese people are set with the colours of newness. This celebration is also known as Bihu in Assam, which is known as the JatiyaUtsav of Assam.

Indu Swami Report

Excerpts from January 2013 report

During the month of January, the information collected from some elderly Karbi persons of town Taralangso regarding prevailing kinship system in the Karbi tribe was compared with the information available in Karbi literature with the help of Karbi community elder, Sh. DharamsingTeron, for better understanding of Karbi kinship system.

A close conformity was found between literature and the information provided by elderly Karbi persons of town Taralangso. It is revealed that the Karbi society, as a whole, is divided into clans, sub-clans, and lineages, whose members reckon their presumed kinship and common ancestry through the paternal line only. The Karbis have five primary patrilineal sections or patriclans called “Kur”. Each of the five clans has a number of patrilinages or sub-clans. The name of all the five clans and its respective sub clans of the Karbis are provided here under:

(A) Lijang (Ingti):

1. IngtiHansek, 2.Ingti KatherBura, 3. KatherRiso, 4. Ingleng, 5.Taro, and 6. Ingti Killing.

(B) Hanjang (Terang):

1. Terang, 2.Terang Engnar, 3. TerangIngjai, 4. TerangDilli, 5. TerangRongcheicho, 6.Bey Ke-ik, 7. Beyke-et (Ronghang), 8.BeyChingthong, 9. Bey Dum, 10. BeyLindok, 11. BeyMiji, 12. Kro, 13.KroNilip,  14. KroNihang, and 15. KroKhamu

(C) Ejang (Enghi/Inghi):

1. Enghi, 2. Rongpi, 3.RongpiRonghang, 4. RongpiAmri, 5. RongpiChingthong, 6. RongpiLindok, 7. RongpiMeji, 8. RongpiRongchehon, 9. Ronghi, 10.Ke-ap, 11.Rengoi, 12.Renglum, 13.Rente, 14.Lekthe, 15.Bongrung, 16.Kramsa, 17.HanseLindok, 18.HanseChingthong, 19.HanseDurong, 20.HanseNongphili, 21.HanseNongloda, 22.HanseKa’I (Kalongtam), 23.Ronghang, 24.RonghangLindok, 25. TissoRongphu, 26. TissoRongchitim, 27. TissoRongling, 28. TissoMotho, 29. TissoRongcheicho, and 30.Tisso.

(D) Kronjang (Teron):

1.Millik, 2. Kongkat, 3.Langne, 4.Sirang, 5.Dengja, 6.Ai, 7.Torap, 8.Sir-ik, and 9. Miji.

(E) Tungjang (Timung):

1.Timung, 2. TimungRongpi, 3. Timung Killing, 4. TimungPhura, 5.Phangcho, 6. PhangchoJuiti, 7. PhangchoLangteroi, 8. PhangchoIngnar, 9. PhangchoVojaru, 10. Pator, 11.Killing Miji, 12.Killing Nokbare, 13.Senar, 14.SenarMuchiki, 15. SenarMeji, 16. TokbiRonghang, 17. TokbiTotiki, 18. TokbiChingthong, 19. TokbiDera, 20.Rongphar Senot, 21. RongpharPhura, 22. Nokbare (Longthulu), 23. Nongdu, 24.Nonglada, 25.Dera, 26.SenarPator, 27. Senot, 28.ChalutSenot, 29. Mu Chophi, and 30. Tokbi Killing.

Although all the five clans are socially equal, Ingti being a priestly clan was supposed to have a higher status in former times. The five clans are symbolically represented by Jambili Athan. It is made up of a rod with five branches having a wooden bird, which is called Vo-rali in Karbi, at the end of each branch. JambiliAthan is a symbolical representation of the Karbi tribe and of clan unity. Under the cover of it, the Karbi listen the story of their origin which is called Muchera Kehir.

To gather quality information about Karbi folk religion, field study was also undertaken among the persons of Karbi tribal community in few villages of Diphu sub division in Karbi Anglong district such as Manja, Dhansiri, Bakulia, Dokmoka, Uttordorbil in association with the Karbi community elder, Sh. DharamsingTeron.

Excerpts from February 2013 report

During the month of February, I visited the village Taralangso, in the vicinity of Diphu, the head quarter of the Autonomous District of Karbi Anglong in association with the Karbi community elder, Sh. Dharamsing Teron to capture the different moments of the Chojun Puja or Swarak Puja. Further, field study was also undertaken among the persons of Karbi tribal community in few villages of Bokajan sub division in Karbi Anglong district such as Bokajan, Borpathar, Dillai, Rongmongwe, Chowkohola, Deithor, Dolamara, Khatkhati, Chowkihola and Kat Teron to gather quality information about Marriage System of Karbis.

It was found that Karbis are custom bound to follow and observe the below mentioned marriage circle:

TERANG—->INGTI—–>TIMUNG—–>ENGHI——->TERON——>TERANG

According to this marriage circle rule, a Terang and all its sub-clan should, by custom, marry an Ingti girl. A Teron should marry a Terang girl. A Timung should marry an Enghi girl and an Ingti should marry a Timung girl. Any valid and legal marriage among the Karbis is a marriage according to the marriage circle. This marriage circle is a must among the Karbis till recently. Any violation of this circle was considered as a crime. But by now, the violation of the marriage circle custom is very frequent. And it seems that the Karbi society itself has under gone a remarkable change. The only prohibition which is adhered to till today is the marriage within the same clan. The clans are completely exogamous and marriage between a boy and a girl belonging to the same clan can never take place since the children of the same clan are considered as brothers and sisters. Violation of this customary law obviously leads to ex-communication and social boycott of the couple involved.

In Karbi tribe, cross-cousin marriage is a preferential one. The parallel cousins (father’s brother’s children and mother’s sister’s children) are equated with siblings and therefore not marriageable, while cross cousins (father’s sister’s children and mother’s brother’s children) are clearly marriageable. In general, monogamy is the prevailing practice, there is no bar to polygamy but the cases of polygamy are very rare. Like other tribal societies, the Karbis do not have the system of bride price. After marriage, the wife continues to use the surname of her father. But the children assume the title of their father. Thus, the Karbis follow the patriarchal system of family structure.

Excerpts from April 2013 report

During the month of April, I visited the village Dokmoka in Karbi Anglong district along with the Karbi community elder, Sh. Dharamsing Teron to capture the different moments of the death ceremony. The Karbis have a unique system of performing death. They firmly believe the concept of re-birth; therefore, every Karbi family has the responsibility to perform the death ceremony of the deceased. This ceremony of the Karbis is called CHOM KAN. The Chomkan (also known as “thi-karhi”) is a festival unique to the Karbis. It is actually a ceremony performed by a family for the peace and the safe passage of the soul of family members who died recently.

Previously known as Arleng Karhi, this ritual is nowadays called Chomangkan. The ceremony is derived from the fundamental Karbi belief that the soul is immortal and that it is reborn. After the death of a person, he is normally reborn either into the same family or at least into the same clan. However, in the interregnum between death and rebirth the soul is supposed to reside in the world of the spirits known as the Chom Arong. The Chomangkan ceremony is considered essential to facilitate the entry of the spirit into the world of spirits.

The documentation work of Chomkan was performed by taking around 60 photographs and video of around four and half hours. The documentation work performed during this month clearly depicts the various steps performed during this important ritual of Karbi Tribal Community.

Further, field study was also undertaken among the persons of Karbi tribal community in few villages of Diphu sub division in Karbi Anglong district such as Manja, Dokmoka, Anjokpani, Samelangso, Borlongfer, Bokulia, and Uttar Borbil to gather quality information about Chomkan.

The available Karbi literature pertaining to Chomkan ritual of Karbis are critically studied and compared with the information collected from field study. It was found that the ‘Karhi’ performed as a celebration of death is as much a celebration of life in Karbi tradition. But taboos apart, the hard economic realities are threatening to change all that. The rhythmic sounds of Karbi folk drums that once announced the ensuing funeral festival in a village nearby are fading into oblivion. Traditional drummers, once respected and recognized, the Duhuidis are a vanishing tribe. Their drumbeats no longer reverberate in young hearts and entice them to a ‘nimso-kerung’ dance interspersed with the erotic tunes of mi-ring-rang songs, because their art is no longer appreciated. ‘Karhi’ as the celebration of death is gasping for breath. This funerary ritual that embodies the philosophy of death and rebirth, eroticism and fertility, the art of music and dance, and a communal cultural activity — is also the essence of the cultural edifice of the Karbis. But the tragedy now is that —the ‘chomangkan’ or ‘Karhi’ is well becoming only a celebration of death and decay, reflecting the crude realities within the Karbi society which itself is gasping for survival between tradition and modernity

One of the very important religious ritual/ceremony of the Karbi tribe of North-East India i.e. Chomkan was studied and documented during the month of April 2013. The documentation work performed during this month clearly depicts the various steps performed during Chomkan ritual of Karbi Tribal Community.

The dead body is kept in the house and it remains there till the preparations for the Chomangkan is ready. Hence, the funeral may be held within a day, a week or even longer depending on the financial condition of the family. During this time family members are not permitted to sleep in the house and each family in the village is supposed to volunteer a man to sleep in the house of the deceased every night. In case the house is not big enough, the villagers enlarge the house by adding a platform in the front. Normally the ceremony lasts for four to five days and the idea is to ensure sufficient supply of rice and beer for that period. Chomangkan begins with ruh kehum ritual, which literally means ‘bringing back of the soul from the cremation ground to the house of the deceased’.

There is no particular time for holding the Chomangkan festival. It depends upon the convenience of the locality. The Karbis generally held this festival outside the village. It is the most elaborate and expensive socio-religious ceremony of the Karbis, which continues for four days and four nights non-stop. In other words it is “a non-stop four days and four nights celebration.” The first day of the festival is called Rukehum, the second day is called Kanas, the third day is called Kanapi and the fourth day or the last day of the festival is ended by doing earthly purificatory rites of the dead person through “Banejab Keku” function or ceremony.

The ceremony does not require any formal invitation and all are welcome to it. In spite of the sad undertone, it is an important occasion for the family to welcome all with great warmth. They come in batches and everyone carries a symbolical and ceremonial totem with 5 (five) branches. At the top of main totem, there is a wooden “Vo-jaru” (racket-tailed drongo). The totem is called “Jambili Athon”. This is the symbolical representation of the tribe and it is also the symbol of clan unity.

The song sung along with this dance is “Kapa-Er-Alun.” Both the young boys and girls take part in this dance wearing their traditional dresses. The dance is circular. The musical instruments used in this dance are Cheng, Pongi, Muri and Kum. The Karbis do not do anything hastily for holding the funeral ceremony of a dead person just after his death because they wait for the arrival of his relatives. After their arrival, all the relatives of the dead person hold his funeral ceremony formally. Chomngkan festival is a must for every Karbi.

Karbis cremate their dead on a raised platform or machang. While the cremation is in progress, women sing a symbolic song narrating the life of the deceased and how he is going to meet relatives who had predeceased him. Singing and dancing continues in the cremation ground till the body is fully burnt. The bones that remain un-burnt are tied up in a cloth and buried. Interestingly, these ceremonies are obligatory in case of all deaths including stillborn children. However, in the event of death due to contagious diseases such as small pox or cholera, the bodies are buried immediately and the prescribed rituals are performed later by cremating the bones that are dug up.

Generally the Chomangkan festival is hold under the leadership of two persons. These two important persons are the weeper and Duihudi. The weeper is an aged Karbi woman who is well-versed in the rites and rituals of the festival. Next important person to the weeper is Duihudi. He has two functions. He maintains the programmes or phases of the festival on the one hand and beats the drum maintaining the relations with the different phases of the festival. Herein lies the credit of Duihudi, as a drum beater or “Dhulia” of the festival on the one hand and as a conductor of the same on the other. However, besides the functions of the weeper and Duihidi, the members of the family of the maternal uncle of the dead also play an important role in the Chmangkan festival.

The Karbis never join the Chomangkan festival or dance without bowing their heads to the Jambelli Athon first. They regard it as the some of their culture. Further, the Karbis believe that for the salvation of the soul of the dead man from all sorts of cares and anxieties, troubles and unhappiness etc. on the one hand and giving it peace after death on the other, they must hold the Chomangkan dance or festival. Herein lies the significance of the festival. The Chomangkan dance or festival is not only a cultural resource of the Karbis alone but also an important cultural resource of the whole culture of Assam.

Excerpts from May 2013 report

During the month of May, I visited a kepangri ceremony going on in Diphu town itself to capture the different moments of the kepangri i.e. marriage rituals of the Karbi tribe of North-East India. The documentation work of kepangri was performed by taking around 80 photographs and video of around one hour. The documentation work performed during this month clearly depicts the various steps performed during this important ritual of Karbi Tribal Community.

The Karbis have a pristine set of rules integral to marriage (kepangri). The Karbi is a patrilineal tribe and descent, inheritance, succession, authority, and residence after marriage are traced through male line among them. They practice tribal endogamy and clan exogamy. The tribal endogamy is highly favoured and esteemed, though in recent times marriage with the members of other communities is also observed. Marriage between a boy and a girl of the same clan is strictly prohibited. Since the violation of this rule leads to ex-communication, this incest taboo is rarely disobeyed. Asymmetrical cross-cousin marriage (orgasopi-pesokapangri) is the preferential type of marriage among the Karbis by which a man has to marry his mother’s brother’s daughter. Nowadays, the younger generation prefers to choose their own mates beyond the periphery of the pristine norms. Marriage by negotiation (adamachar) is the common practice of the Karbis; however, marriage by mutual consent and elopement (kanghupan), and marriage by capture (kachonghupan), are also not rare. Traditionally a girl is married soon after her puberty and the groom is generally older than the bride. Age of marriage among the boys is 18 to 20 years and the age of girls is 15 to 16 years. However, a boy marries from the age of 16 and a girl from the age of 14 in the traditional Karbi society. In case of marriage by negotiation, the father of the groom initiates the process and performs the lead. An already existing closely connected kin in another village usually explores possibilities for finding a match for a boy or a girl of the village. The strength of ties maintained with the extra-local kin varies according to the nature of situation and from person to person. The geographical distance between localities also determines the strength of ties maintained with the extra-local kin. There is a fair amount of choice with regard to interactions with extra-local kin excepting from ‘priority kin’ such as wife’s parents, wife’s brothers and mother’s brothers. In most of the cases, the boy and girl are consulted before making the proposal final. A Karbi girl cannot be forcibly married against her will.

Further, field study was also undertaken among the persons of Karbi tribal community in few villages’ viz., Deithor, Rongchali, and Tara-dong in the foothills of Karbi Anglong district near Numaligarh town of Assam to gather quality information about kepangri.

The available Karbi literature pertaining to marriage rituals of Karbis are critically studied and compared with the information collected from field study. It was found that in Karbi society, most of the marriages is performed by elopement and very few marriages are performed by negotiation. It is due to the fact that marriage by negotiation incurs considerable expenditure which is difficult for a family of modest means. Therefore, the parents of a poor family allow their sons and daughter to establish ties by eloping. Such a couple resides somewhere for a couple of month and then comes to the husband’s family of orientation on in a new local residence. To lead a normal life like the co-villagers, the couple has to offer a feast to entertain the co-villagers. The junior levirate type of marriage is practiced by them to secure the widow’s future in the deceased husband’s family. Traditionally, they practiced widow marriage; however, now days they try to avoid this type of marriage except the compulsory marriage of the widow with her deceased husband’s brother.

Many traits of the Assamese Hindu culture have been percolated to the Karbi culture and become integral to it. Intermarriage with other communities, especially with the Assamese Hindus, widened the familial kin horizon of them. The Karbis of a particular village have familial ties with a number of Karbi and non-Karbi settlements of Assam and Meghalaya. The presence of kin in the nearby villages facilitates contact and communication with them. In different rituals and ceremonies held in a household, kin from different villages also meet one another. In such occasions, kin from neighbouring villages are always invited. A section of the Karbi tribe has abandoned the pristine religion and has embraced Christianity. These Karbis performed their marriage according to Christian rites. The educated section of Karbis who donot follow the tribal endogamy sometimes perform marriages according to the norms of the bride’s community or opt for a court marriage.

One of the very important ceremonies of the Karbi tribe of North-East India i.e. kepangri was studied and documented during the month of May 2013. The documentation work performed during this month clearly depicts the various steps performed during kepangri rituals of Karbi Tribal Community.

The Karbi society has strict rules regarding marriage obligations. In every step of a Karbi marriage, such rules can be easily observed. If a young boy likes a girl, he sends his father, or both the parents, to the girl’s father and leaves a betrothal ring or bracelet with the girl. Sometimes a gourd of rice beer is taken and accepted. If after the acceptance the girl is married to another boy, the village council fines the girl’s family. The length of engagement is not uniform. If the girl and the boy have come of age, it does not last long. Marriage takes place at the bride’s house. In cases of marriage by mutual consent and elopement and marriage by capture, the marriage ceremony has to be performed after the birth of the first sibling at a convenient time.

If the bridegroom’s party on the way to the bride’s house has to go through different Karbi villages, it has to offer a gourd full of rice beer to the members of each village. This custom naturally develops fellow feelings among the villagers besides the people of the bride and the groom’s villages. The guests are entertained with a feast and plenty of country liquor on the marriage day at the bride’s house. Nuptial songs are integral part of the Karbi marriage. Innumerable marriage songs provide a mentionable dimension to the Karbi folk-lore. In different marriage songs of the Karbis, description of the mundane duties, life of women, love, sorrow, kinship ties, duties and obligations, customary laws, views towards the life, etc. are depicted by the unknown poet in a convincing and sensitive way. It is pertinent to note here that marriage songs are sung only by the female folk and participation of male folk in it is tabooed.

Not only the marriage songs, the conversations of the bride’s and groom’s parties on the marriage day also focuses the frolic loving tendency and art of expression of the feelings of the Karbis such as: ‘The bride’s father asks the bride groom’s party why they have come and why presents have been offered. The bride groom’s father replies: Your sister (bridegroom’s mother) has become old and cannot work, so we have brought our son to marry your daughter. The reply from the bride’s father is as follows: My daughter is unworthy and she does not know weaving or any other household work. The bridegroom’s father then replies: never mind, we will teach her those things ourselves ’. Such situations are properly depicted in the marriage songs of the Karbis. A marriage does not bind only two persons but also binds two households and two groups of people with duties and expectations.

After marriage, a girl has to leave her family of orientation and has to live with her husband in the husband’s family of orientation or in a neo-local residence. The Karbi females use pi after their surname. For instance, if a girl’s father’s surname is Teron, she has to write her surname as Terongpi. A girl does not change her surname after marriage, but her children have to use her husband’s surname.

The Karbis are described as a monogamous tribe. However, the occurrence of polygamous type of marriage is not altogether uncommon among them. Traditionally the practice of polygamy is not favoured. Only among the richer section of the Karbis polygamy is noted. Generally a polygamous marriage isto beget progeny. Child marriage is an unknown system among the Karbis. Junior levirate (kepatang) is practiced by them and following that customary law a man has to marry his deceased elder brother’s wife. However, under no circumstances, the elder brother is allowed to marry the widow of his younger brother. Widow marriage is also practiced by the Karbis.

The Karbis are overwhelmingly rural and, therefore, they generally arrange marriages when they get rest after continuous labour in the agricultural field. To a considerable extent the local and extra-local settings determine the patterns of social relations among the Karbis. The basic values of Karbis are handed over from generation to generation.

In Karbis, divorce (kasakok) is very rare, but permissible through the village council only when the separation of the spouse is inevitable. If the wife is barren or if she goes to her parent’s home and refuses to return to her husband’s home in such cases only, divorce is granted by the village council. A husband, whose wife refuses to return to his house from her parent’s house, offers a gourd full of rice beer to his wife’s parents and by this custom, both the husband and wife become free from the marriage bond. After divorce, husband and wife are free to marry again.

Karuna Kanta Kakati Report

Excerpts from January 2013 report

During this month I collected data on various folksongs of the Misings. The Mising have a rich tradition of folksongs which is a part of Mising folk music and culture. I collected some text of Mising folksongs. I have also photographed different performers along with the documentation of the text and context. I visited six different villages of Lakhimpur and Dhemaji districts namely Dalapha, Lakhipather, Uttar Dhemaji, Gogamukh, Ahuchaol gaon and Teo gaon. Except a few, most of the folk singers are well trained with the modern songs. I also met three Mibus namely Ganesh Pegu, Bhimkanta Pegu and Gomeswar Pegu of three different villages of Dhemaji district who knew to sing the A:bang songs which are associated with various rites and rituals. Except for a few ,most of the folksongs are sung in accompaniment with musical instruments. I also collected some folk performances from the youth festival of the Misings held in Dhemaji.

The following are the classification of Mising folksongs. Folksongs of the Mising can be classified into four broad categories.

(1)   A:bang, (2) Kaban, (3) Ni:tom and (4) Oi:Ni:tom.

Except A:bang, the other categories can be called as Abe.

 

Music is an integral part of Mising life and culture. They have a rich oral tradition. Since they had no script of their own and had no writing system, their literary resources in varied forms were orally transmitted from one generation to the next until recently. Probably during the seventies of the twentieth century, they adopted roman script for language. Since then the efforts are made at individual level by some knowledgeable persons to collect, codify and document folklore materials.

Folk songs probably are the earliest form of literary genre as far as the oral tradition is concerned. The folksongs reflect the philosophy of life and culture. Usually the composer or lyricist is not known, but its appeal engulfs and embraces every one’s heart.

 

Folksongs occupy an important place in oral literature of the community. It seems that they are the earliest evidence of poetic creation of the society. They are the expression of the body of beliefs, sorrow and sufferings, victory and defeat, hopes and aspiration and so on. The early Mising spontaneously preferred musical notes as a medium of revelation of overflowing thoughts. In folksong, therefore, cosmic philosophy of the corresponding community is envisaged, the beauty of nature is printed, running of streams and sweeping of the blowing wind is echoed, petals of the blooming flowers are embellished and sensual dreams of the lover and beloved are colorfully painted. Besides, the daily activities as tilling of land, herding of cattle, hunting or preying of wild animals and birds, weaving of clothes, netting of fish, cooking and playing find expression in folksongs. It also includes the universal experiences of life and death, day and night, lightening and thundering, drought and flood.

The folksongs sung by the Mising priest is called Mibu A:bang or A:bang for short. Similarly, a song of lamentation is called Kaban while a lullaby Ko: Ni:tom. Thus one is likely to confound Mising folksongs with these categorical names. In fact, the Mising word for a song is Ni;tom or Abe. In a sense, the Mising folksongs can be broadly divided into two categories-(1) Occasional (2) Non-occasional. The first one includes those songs which are sung on some specific occasion while the later one incorporates which are sung anytime and anywhere. While in the domain of the former Mibu A:bang or A:bang, Midang Ni:tom(weddingsong) and Bi:rig Ni:tom(seasonal song) can be included, a great variety of songs relating to various subjects in latter. However, codification of Mising folk songs in scientific methods is yet to be done.

I collected different folksongs of the Misings. They have some unique creation of folksongs which are associated with socio-cultural life. Folksong of the Mising is an integral part of their aged old folk culture. As I have already mentioned there are four broad categories of folk songs. I have collected few versions of text as well as texture of the folksongs.  Few of the collections are mentioned below.

(1)   A; bang geet : there are two types of A;bang geets; one is called Miri-A:bang and another is called as Mibu-A:bang. The Miris are the medicine man of the Misings and those songs which are chanted by the Miri is called Miri-A:bang and Mibus aretheir priest and those songs which are chanted by the Mibu is called Mibu A:bang.

(a)   Miri A:bang : these are verse formed  hymns  which are chanted by the Miri with a view of invoke certain super natural beings to help and guide him to find out the causes of any adversaries such as untimely death, famine, strife, and other natural calamities occurred in a family, village and in individual of his /her long sufferings and their remedial measures.  Few line of such a song is mentioned below.

Se:din a:na me;lo ba;bua

Nolu Kemdangem ge:no:langka

Ngokke a:jio Ka:li:mena

Mise serio serob moteika.”

(O Mother Se:di, father Me:lo hear us! Revive energy to my child so that he can recover and lead a joyous and jubilant life)

(b)   Mibu A:bang : these are also verse hymns which are chanted by a Mibu narrating the story of the origin or creation of the Universe from the stage of a great Vacuum or the creation of mother se:di and father Me:lo or any other Gods and Goddesses and other super natural beings. These songs are quite long in comparison to other folksongs.  A few lines of such a song is mentioned below.

“Delog rongem

Keyum Se:din a:neke

Me:lo mambi a:ji mambi du;name

Keyum me;lo Ya: yike

Konnoke golonge gonlamem

Se:di Digire Irkonge Kongkie

Ane kolang Ko: mangko Ya:yiko.”

(After that with the cohabitation of the mother Se:di and father Me:lo, a fatas occupied in the womb of mother Se:di Digire was born out of them and then Irkong and also the parent Kongki and Ko:mang.)

(2)   Kaban geet : Kabans are songs of lamentation sung without beats. It depicts generally the unsuccessful love or separation of one’s from his/her beloved by way of obstruction from the family or society or due to untimely death. The rhythms of these songs are slow enough to express the tragic entity. There are various kinds of Kaban geet. Some of them are mentioned below.

(a)   Komjing Kaban : these are sung to express one’s inner feeling towards his/her beloved who have spent his/her days playing together with his/her counterpart.

Komjing lokkebo reiyo lokkebo

Pitpa :lokkebo jeyango lokkebo, oi oiya

Oiya de:pinem pinman bosutai

Oinom  de:pongem po:man bosutai, oi oiya

Oiya so:jonko so:man bosutai

Gi:dang so:jonko so:man bosutai

(Since the time of my innocent days of infancy and childhood, from the time we played jointly by making mock cooking, dancing in the house premise, making merry)

(b)   Me : bo Kaban : these lamentation songs of the youth which are sung by the young boys and girls expressing hopes and aspiration, somber and sorrow arising out of misfortune, separation or obstruction on the way of materializing their love. There are several such songs, here only one song is mentioned below.

Ba:pi yi:linge yi:dag nelempe

Me:bo ngok yi:lunge yi:lunge yi:dag kunena, oi oiya

So:si patunge biker nelempe

Me:bon go biker biyer dakkune, oi oiya

( Like the blowing wind, the wind of our love has been moving around without any stability like that of the swaying creepers on the air after getting it cut into pieces)

(c)    Do:bo Kaban : these are also songs of lamentation which are sung by the bachelor of elder age group who could not materialize his dream of marrying his or her beloved. These are also sung by married couples narrating their past life and future probability.

(d)   Lupo kabans : these are regarded as the songs of conversation which are sung to express the feeling of two lovers who accidently were uncle and niece by relation and between whom no marriage could be materialized due to social taboo of the Misings realizing their limitations, they had to remain apart without fulfilling their hope of union. There are several such songs which will be mentioned in final report.

(e)   Yamne Kaban : these are weeping of the bride at the time of wedding expresses the feelings of separation of the bride from the family. In this type of song, the bride and her mother expresses their feelings as to how she was brought up by her mother and lloked after by her father and how the days were full of joys and sorrows shared by her being a member of the family. There are lots of such text  which will be mentioned in the final report.

(f)    Pumsu Kaban : these are also the songs of lamentation which are sung by a couple recollecting their past days of married life and probable separation in future due to old age.

(g)   Sirung Kaban : Sirung Kaban are the songs sung on the demise of a relative including one’s life partner by accident or otherwise.  A few lines of a Sirung Kaban is:

Do:nyi sa:yem po:lo sa:yem

Ba:buke dumsing migmodem kappa:dungai

Silo no kapila among ara:bo dongkangkum

Dongkale tapume nom dopage bomype

(o father, I used to glimpse your face every day when the sun rises, the moon appears but today you are lying under the ground and will be eaten up soon by earthworm and insects)

(h)   Tumbo Kaban : these are also the songs of lamentation in the form of weeping which are sung by a widower recollecting their past married life and present life on experiencing the worries of a widowed life. A small song of turbo kaban is mentioned below.

Oiye appuna turjon ajona

Lo:nyik turbo suge:la

Ayangem bibo suge:la

Kapikan silo no

Ater ngom mega:la

Appun ori:sukampe

Ori:sul gipakkan

( O my beloved life partner , living together for few days, loving me for few days, now what is the wrong that you left me alone and you made exit like a fallen flower.)

(i)     Bone Kaban : Bone kaban are the songs of lamentation which expresses how one of the lovers who could not woo his or her counterpart has been living a dejected life trickling down tears throughout the life. The text of a bone kaban song is mentioned below.

Oko po:yade yadbom kangkume

Pone po:yadei yadbom kangkune

Pone po: yadei yadbom kangkune

Asi si : yadei yadbom Kungkune oi oiya

( O my darling, which of the whirlpool pushed you away from me- whether of wind or of water)

(j)     Do:ying Kaban : these are a sort of ballad which are sung in the form of songs. The lengths of the story are not so long. The story narrated in the form of song may be of any incident centering round one’s love affairs or otherwise under given situation. A few of such stories are given below.

(a)   Dela Ga:mke do:ying : it is a story which is narrated by a courageous Mising man named Gela Gam who was captive during the British regime.

(b)   Binud-Pipoli:ke do:ying : it is also a ballad which narrates the love story of Binud, a non-Mising guy and Pipoli,a beautiful Mising girl leading to tragic ending by suicidal shooting of both for unable to materialize their love because societal opposition due to prevalent caste barrier.

The following are the ballads of different categories. Some of the collected text will be produced in the final report.

(c)    Di: rkombe :

(d)   Yaka miremke do:ying :

(e)   Donbor Rotonike do:ying :

(f)    Damaike do:ying

(g)   Deubor Dentali:ke do:ying

(h)   Pisiringke do:ying

(i)     Lo:tung Oiya Damoibik do:ying

To collect the text of the folksongs and documentation of them my collaborator introduced some folk artists and knowledgeable persons of the community. He also helped me to collect text and texture of the folksongs, sometimes searching some secondary sources for collecting the text of the folksongs.  According to him all the verities of folksongs are not practiced among the mising people. Some of them are found only in some secondary sources. Besides some of the tradition bearers are no longer alive. Such cases only the texts are collected from secondary sources. We have met six renowned folk singers of the Mising. The collaborator asked me to meet the following folksingers and discuss various issues about the folk songs of the Misings.

  1. Gubindo Taid, Gogamukh ,Teok goan
  2. Gubinda Narah, Ahuchaol gaon, Lakhimpur
  3. Ms Prabina Taye, Dalapha
  4. Maya Yein, Lakhipather, Dhemaji
  5. Birason Doley, Gogamukh
  6. Maziram Koptak, Uttar Dhemaji

We exchanged our thoughts and feelings regarding Mising folksongs. They have also been interviewed.

Besides my collaborator suggested me to meet some Miris and Mibus to collect a:bang songs. Accordingly we have met three Mibus namely Ganesh Pegu, Bhimkanta Pegu and Gomeswar Pegu of three three different villages of Dhemaji and collect the text as well as document performances.

Excerpts from March   2013 report

During this month I have collected data on various folksongs of the Misings. In my previous report (for the month of February-2013), I mentioned only two different categories of folk songs of the Misings. The remaining two categories out of four categories have been discussed in this report.  During this month, I collected some texts of Mising folksongs mainly Ni:tom songs and Oi:ni:ton songs. I have also taken photographs of different performers along with the documentation of the texture and context. I visited seven different villages of Lakhimpur and Dhemaji districts namely  Rai chapori, Dalapha, Lakhipather, Uttar Dhemaji, Gogamukh, Ahuchaol gaon and Teo gaon. Except a very few, most of the folksongs are sung in accompaniment with musical instruments. During this period I have met two different music groups who perform folksongs and folkdances of Rai chapori and Uttar Dhemaji areas. I also collected some folk performances from the youth festival of the Misings held in Dhemaji. Folksongs of the following two categories namely Ni:tom and Oi:Ni:tom has been discussed here. I have collected three /four versions of different categories but here I have mentioned only one version for each category.

The modern singers perform particularly the Ni:tom songs and Oi:ni:tom songs in public functions organized by the Cultural organizations in accompaniment with the musical instruments. Now a days, the tune of the Oi:ni:tom songs are used in the greater Assamese bihu songs. Most of the MP3 produced by the Music production companies use at least one-two songs in the tune and texture of Mising oi:ni:tom  in bihu songs. There is a big question of copyright in this regards whether the companies inform the concerned community and get prior consent.

 

 

In my previous report, I mentioned the elaborate description of two categories of Mising folksongs along with their text. There are four broad categories of Mising folksongs i.e., A;bang geet, Kaban geet, Ni:tom geet and Oi;nitom geet. The remaining two categories namely ni:ton songs and Oi:niton songs of the Misings are discussed.

(1)Ni:tom  : Nitom means the songs of appeasement. ani:toms are the songs which are sung on various occasions. There are various kinds of ni;tom songs found in the Mising society.  These are described one by one in below.

(a)  Mibu ni:tom :  Mibu ni:toms or Mibu songs are those songs which are sung with dance by the mibu accompanied by a small group or young boys and girls having their living parents while proceeding to the imaginary land of super natural beings to find out the causes of adversaries in the village .

Do:si piri:lo piri:lo pogyoka

Do: sike lekorem piri:lo pogyoka

Korango dekkunei piri:lo pogyoga

Ko:je na:neke piri:lo pogyoga

Jemane kobona piri:lo pogyoga

( let us go by limping like wag-tail birds to the place where the mother earth resides with a view to find out the soul of the suffering person and to bring back it by way of soothing for his or her normal life spirit)

(b) Midang ni:tom : these are wedding songs like the yamne kaban through it is also sung in a slow tempo.

Terere terere terereteta

Adi tele di:tele ke:ke randanga

Terere terere terereteta

Banji so:nyik yange tagai ke:ke randanga

Terere terere terereteta

Koue kidar ka:pong kakuli ke:ke randanga

Terere terere terereteta

Banji ko:bang pageoula ke:ke randanga

Terere terere terereteta

Ma:mo kampum yamsa:nape ke:ke randanga

(A felling banji log was kept in the hill so as to make it seasoned one. O guys, let us go there to fetch that log to cut out a ladder to be used for bringing up the beautiful bride to the stilted floor. )

© Bini ni:ton : these are lullabies sung by a mother or in her absence by an attendant to pacify the crying baby. It is generally sung in a slow tempo but sometimes it is also sung in a faster tempo to attract and make the baby happy.

Kou:k eta:tobi okolop gikane

Ki:rug rukkape gikang

Sisukko apkage:l bombi yekupe

Appinge dola:pe dei

(Grand father of our baby has gone for hunting and will bring a stag and we will take the meat jointly)

(d)Bi:rig ni:tom : these are songs of season sung on the occasion that falls in a particular season. As for example, the following song is sung with beats during Ali:a:ye-ligang( seed sowing festival which fall in the month of spring season).

Gumrag gumrag keko:nolok gumrag

Kadu kadu gumrag keko:nolok gumrag

Gumrag gumrag keko:nsok gumrag

Kadu kadu gumrag keko:nsok gumrag

Dagdunge gumrag daktoge gumrag

Ali-a:ye-ligang Ali-a:ye-ligang Ali-a:ye-ligang Ali-a:ye-ligang

Din dini pak pak baro dini pak

Ali-a:ye-ligang Ali-a:ye-ligang Ali-a:ye-ligang Ali-a:ye-ligang

( Gimrag gumrag, the drum is sounding. Gumrag is there in the other side, Gumrag is here in this side, and everywhere there is gumrag of Ali-a:ye-ligang)

(e) Si :lung : these are jungle songs which can be compared with Bi:rig ni:tom as  it expresses how the plants which grow up luxuriantly on arrival of a particular season reminding one’s to recollect his or her beloved who is not at sight.

(f)Leke ni:tom: these are olden songs sung in group for merry making among the youths. It can be sung with or without musical instrument of traditional in slow or a faster rhythm.

(g) Lotta so:man Ni:tom : these are the songs of merry making sung in the lotta or house premise to premises by the older group without traditional musical instrument. These songs are lighter than kabans in its composition and tune. There are three types of such songs namely (1)Yirman so:man (b) Roila ni:toms and (3) Raktup ni:tom

Yirmane so:manem meyoke jonbulla

Yirmane so:manem meyo

Turrangoi du:doso yirmanebong so:mane

Similo okolok pa:yem

(o my friends, don’t give up this merry making so long we are alive here in this planet earth, for, this will not be found again after our death. )

(h) Nokoli ni:tom : these are such songs which are composed in broken Assamese language and sung generally at the concluding part of merry making after husari or oi:tom so:man as an extra or addition to it, accompanied by traditional musical instruments such as dumdum(drum) and lu:pi(cymbal).

Khaboli gator oi bonnam oi ko:nenga

Kaboli gator oi bon

Jima oi moromem logali ko:nenga

Orilot logali jui ( The disrepute of khabali ghat, o my darling, the disrepute of it and you shown me so much of affection that it inflamed my whole body.)

(i)Moman Ni:tom : these songs are regarded as nursery rhymes in character which are sung accompanied by dance or without dance either performed as a solo or group number. It can also be called children’s game song or play songs.

Donsiri Donbora bedne sati igbora

Nappa:desin nabbora yeru:desin tambora

Amigdesin migbora a :yedesin kotora

Donsiri donbora bedne sati igbora

( O dhanbar of Dhasiri, you are blowing up the torn umbrella and your mouth is also big enough, ears are wide, eyes are wide and teeth are uneven too)

(j) Peyum ni:tom : these are a sort of religious recitation towards God and Goddesses and soul of forefathers of the clan in the form of appealing and appeasing them whenever a socio religious function is performed, this type of recitation , though, can not exactly be called folksongs but it has already become a part of the traditional rituality having the element of religious song.

Silo Akonsinna, Se:di Me:lo, Karsing-Kartak

Do:nyi-Po:lo,Gu:min-So:yin, Koje:yanggo

Nolu appinge taddak ka:dag langka

Ali-aye-ligangem li:len dubgkune

Silolikke doter ti:ter doye ti:ye kune

Okokosin domur doyar ti:mur ti:yar imoma :peka.

(O Se:di –Me:lo, sun and moon, other Gods and Goddesses, forefathers etc.you listen and see, today we are breaking the restriction for throughfare on the occasion of Ali-a:ye-ligang and from today onwards we will be taking anything else as before, you please don’t take it otherwise.)

(k) Do :bo Ni:tom : these song can be turned as modernized version of kabans in respect of its composition which are sung generally with or without musical instrument in slow rhythm to express one’s tragic state intending to draw attention to his or her beloved or listeners. While content of Oi:ni:toms amy be of any kind such as tragedy, satirical or simple statement, but do:boni:toms must be of tragic one equally in its content and tune.

 

Go:ru oi mangayem menjeg oi mangayem

Poga tuling tuligge:l sopan oi sutone, oi oiya

( Neither being a cow nor a buffalo why we have been separated by dragging with help of rope on the neck)

(2) Oi:ni:tom  : Oi:ni:tom or love songs are sung about one’s dear or beloved one. Oi:ni:toms are the most numerous and productive genre of Mising folk music. It is short verse which may be arranged in the form of a couplet, depending on one’s choice, rhythm of the lines not being obligatory.

There are hundreds of Oi:ni:tom songs , here put only two examples.
Do:nyi li:len dokkebonge Po:lo sa:len dokkebo

Oinok so:nam ka:li:la dumdum man-yir sutagai

( since the time of rising the sun and moon, o my childhood friend, I learnt how to beat drum just to have a glimpse of your dancing.)

Oiye oiye me:nane oinok agom me:nane

Borali oi ngosanpe sanang oi gedu:ne

(O my darling, I am so much so longing for you that I am physically deteriorated like of a dried borali fish.)

My collaborator, Ekolobya Gam is a popular singer of the Mising. According to his suggestion, we were doing field work in seven different villages of Dhemaji and Lakhimpur district.  To collect the text of the folksongs and documentation of them my collaborator introduced some folk artists and knowledgeable person of the community in the above mentioned villages. He also helped me to collect text and context of the folksongs. According to him all the varieties of folksongs already mentioned above are not practiced among the Mising people. Some of them are found only in some secondary sources. I met two cultural and literary organization of the Misings namely TMPK ( Takam Mising Poring Kebang) and Mising Abang Kebang for discussion their folksongs.

Excerpts from April 2013 report

During this month I collected data on various musical instruments found among the Misings Folk songs, folk dances and any other performances are performed in accompaniment of different musical instruments. I have taken photographs of the instruments along with the documentation of the text and context. I have collected some folk performances from the youth festival of the Misings held in Dhemaji and sixteen different musical instruments of the Mising community.

Among the percussion instruments, dumdum is one of the most significant musical instruments of the Misings. It is made of leather. The leather work is done by a particular community in Assam which is known as Musi or Badyakar. Instruments that produce sound by the vibration of the string through the thumb, fingers, stick and plectrum are called string instruments. There are three peculiar stringed musical instruments found among the Misings which is beaten with a small stick to produce sound. Such instruments are dendun, dumpak and piro dendun.  There is only one solid musical instrument found made of metal. It is known as lelong. It is made of eight different metals like brass, bell l, copper, bronze, silver etc. it is regarded as one of the sacred musical instruments of the Misings and one of the important musical instruments to perform any rituals.

Wind instruments carry melody more than the marked rhythm and consequently they may be considered as providing an extension or modulation of the human voice. This is particularly clear for the wind instruments—the flute, for example, in which the breath of the performance actually passes through the instrument and is transformed into a voice unlike the performer’s own. The new voice may be more beautiful or more powerful or it may be likened to a voice from the supernatural. Another instrument known as the nose flute, is played by blowing through the nose.

Wind instruments of the Misings are Pempa or Tapung, Tumbo Tapung, Pomsu Tapung, Tutok Tapung,  Kepong Tapung, Gungung etc. the pempa and gungung are almost similar to the Assamese musical instrument Pepa and Gagana. The sound produced is different in case of Mising people.

There are four different categories of Musical instruments found among the Mishings. (1) Leather Instrument (2) Different types of flutes (3) String Instrument (4) Solid or Metal Instruments.

(a)   Leather Instrument: There is only one popular leather instrument found amongst the  Mishings of Assam. According to some musicians, one more leather instrument was found among them which is not available now. Dumdum is only leather instrument .

(b)   Dumdum (drum) :  It is almost similar to the Assamese bihu dhol. According to my collaborator, there is a very small difference between dumdum and bihu dhol. Dumdum is almost cylindrical in shape but in case of bihu dhol the middle portion is a little bit wider than both the ends. Some other folk musician told me that both the instruments are similar.  As an outsider of the community, my observation is both the instruments are almost same. It is very distinct that the music or the sound produced by the instrument is totally different which can be recognized.

(c)    Material used:  A wooden log of almost 3ft to 3.6 ft long and skin of goat and cows. The wooden is hollowed cylindrically by the musician or carpenter. According to the musicians the wooden log preferably from jackfruit tree is more likely used to prepare the wooden drum. According to them, the sound produced by such drum is very clear and unique which is also accepted by the other Assamese castes people particularly in case of bihu dhol. Both the ends of the drum are covered with leather which is procured from the skin of cows or goat. The leather work of the instrument is done by a particular community which is known as Musi or Badyakar. They collect the leather from the butcher’s shop or from villages where the cow or goat dies naturally. The leather of the right side of the instrument is beaten with a stick and the left side with fingers.

The instrument produces different kind of sound. It is one of the most important musical instrument which is beaten to perform different kinds of folksongs and folkdances of the Misings particularly Gomrag dance and Oi:ni:tom songs.

(1)   Solid instrument: There is a metallic solid musical instrument found among the Mising people. The ethnic name of the instrument is Lelong. According to the informant and my collaborator the instrument is made of a metallic mixture of eight different metals. According to them, the metals are brass, bronze, bell, copper etc. It is beaten with a wooden or bamboo stick. It produces a loud sound; it can reach up to almost 1km diameter area. It is generally beaten for two purposes-(1) to gather the villagers in their morong ghar, (2) to gather the villagers in a house if someone dies and in a funeral ceremony (Dadgam) when rituals are performed. The Mising people regard it as a sacred musical instrument. Now days, some musicians use cymbals along with drum to perform oi:ni;tom, but according to the community artisans and my collaborator, it is the recent addition which is assimilated from the greater Assamese society.

(2)   Flute: There are different kinds of flutes found among the Misings. These are pomsu tapung, tumbo tapung, tutak tapung, kepong tapung, jekreng tapung, Gungnang etc. The tapung is the ethnic term use to denote flutes of the Misings.

(a)   Pomsu tapung. It is a peculiar wing instrument of the Misings. The sound produced by the instrument is almost to the musical instrument used to perform serpent dance in different parts of the country. The instrument consists of two distinct parts, one part is made of a bamboo tube with three/four holes and the other part is made of a wild dried gourd. A pair of bamboo tubes is fixed with the gourd and the Mising people regard it as a couple. The symbolic meaning of the pair is compared with male and female. One tube produces male sound and the other tube produces female sound. The instrument is generally used to perform some rituals.  According to my collaborator, such instruments are also found in Thailand and Myanmar.

(b)   Tumbo tapung : It is also similar with Pomsu tapung but here, only one bamboo tube consists of  five holes is used to produce sound instead of two bamboo tubes. Here also, a bamboo tube with five holes is fixed with a wild gourd. It is also blown in some rituals.

(c)    Tutak tapung : It is similar with Assamese Bahi. A bamboo tube almost 1ft to 1.6ft of length consisting of a knot in one end is taken. The musician make one small hole near by the knot and 5-6 holes are made parallel in equal intervals towards another end. It is blown in accompaniment with other musical instruments to perform oi:ni:tom and gomrang dance.

(d)    Kepong tapung : It is similar toTatuk tapung. A bamboo tube almost 1ft to 1.6ft of length consisting of a knot in one end is taken. The musician makes one small hole near the knot and 6 holes are made parallel in equal interval of gap towards another end. It is blown in accompaniment with other musical instruments to perform oi:ni:tom and gomrang dance and other folk performance of the Misings.

(e)    Jekreng tapung : Jekreng tapung is an intrinsic part of the traditional folk music of the Misings. It is also called as pempa which is resembled with Assamese Pepa. It consists of two parts; one part is made of bamboo tube and other part is made of buffalo horn. A bamboo tube consists of five small hole is fixed with a shell of a buffalo horn. The diameter of the horn is larger at one end. Gradually it tapers down and thus the diameter of other end is very small. The upper end of the instrument is covered with the horn of buffalo horn. The sound of the instrument mingles harmoniously with that of the dumdum to add grandeur to Mising music. Initially, the buffalo herds played the instrument when they grazed buffalos in the field. The sound of the Instrument reflects the rhythm of the rural life of the Misings.

(f)    Gungnang: It is a small, split-bamboo instrument, very finely cut and delicate. Young girls play it by holding it between the teeth, striking with the right forefinger, allowing the wind to pass as and when necessary. The sound emitted by this instrument is short and high-pitched. It is generally use along with the accompaniment with other musical instrument like dumdum (drum) to perform oi:ni:tom and other folksongs of the Misings and gomrang dance performance.

(3)   String instruments: According to an informant, many years ago the Mising people used a string musical instrument which was made with the hair of the buffalo tail. According to him, such string instruments are not found among the mising people but some other bamboo instruments are found which produce the string sound. Such instruments are dendun and dumpak.

(a)   Dendun : A piece of bamboo consisting of two joint in both the ends is taken. The artisan or craftsman prepares a pair of bamboo string very carefully with a sharp knife. The outer layer of the bamboo tube.  Usually two pegs are fitted in both the ends of the string. The sound is produced by beating the strings with a small bamboo stick. Such instruments are found among other tribal communities of this region.

(b)   Dumpak :  It is also similar with the dendun.

(c)    Piro dendun : It is almost rectangular shaped bamboo instrument. Thin bamboo strips are woven skillfully so that it can produce sound if someone beat with a small bamboo stick. It is peculiar musical instrument of the Misings.

Rakesh Report

November 2012 report

I travelled to the Bansbari Range of Manas National Park in Baska District of BTAD, Assam to meet my community elder. He is a naitive to the Barengabari Village near the range. I reached my destination on 19th of December 2012 from Guwahati and spent five days to work with my community elder. I had an extensive conversation with my community elder, Purna Chandra Rabha about his life long experience with the elephants. My basic objective was to understand his attitude and expertise about elephants as a traditional icon.  He started his training under his father  Lt. AndharuRabha, who was a skilled mahut of Manas during fifties. However, his professional life with elephant shaped during the visit of former pri-minister of India Lt. Indira Gandhi to Manas in 1952. He had been hired for two days to look after the department’s elephant during the prime-minister’s trip.  Subsequently, he continued his work with the department’s elephants. He remembered the orphaned elephant calf ‘Giribala’ as his first charge. Latter on he developed his expertise with other  elephants – ‘Jamuna’ and ‘Sundarmala’. The young Purna Rabha became an inseparable part for the management of captive elephants of Manas. He met the famous Phandi Hasan Ali and requested him to take him as one of the group members in elephant catching operations. Hasan Ali advised him to register himself as a mahut. This was the first elephant hunting trip of Purna Chandra Rabha. He caught 3.5 elephants within six months. Here 3 elephants  means three individual animal and 0.5 means one half, that was caught in a share. This one half is termed as ‘Dhora’ . After Batabarimahal, he moved down to Garubhasamahal. Presently, Garubhasa is situated in Chirang District , Assam. Here he caught 7 elephants with Hasan Ali. He became an expert elephant catcher. In 1965 he had joined ‘Gajli Sikar’ trip with Balaram Somuwa of Dumunichowki. Gajli Sikar is primarily taken up during monsoon. He had extensively explored the mahals of Sapkata river of Holtugaon and caught 4 elephants. These areas are bordering Bhutan foot hills in Kokrajhar District of Assam. However, he came back to Manas in 1970 and joined a permanent mahut post of Assam forest department. His folk knowledge about elephant culture, medicine and management had been shaped to its best. During his service, he had gained enormous knowledge on the elephant’s behavior. He had joined a elephant training camp at Simlipal Tiger Reserve in 2004 and Nandankanan Zoological Park of Orissa as a resource person in 2005. Simlipal Tiger Reserve  is also famous as a  national park and an elephant reserve situated in the Mayurbhanj district in the Indian state of Orissa.

In the next phase, I had discussed about Purna Chandra Rabha’s  knowledge on elephant as an animal. He expressed his knowledge in a systematic way. Our conversation started with the anatomical features or the external appearance of the elephant. This is an important part of elephant knowledge to understand the health and identity of individual animal. He has a good understanding about the individual body characteristic of every elephant. He told me that, the continuous interaction helped him to develop such an understanding as his family had been traditionally working with elephants. Elephants are traditionally identified based on their Tusk structures, Body shapes and Tail lengths. Besides this, elephants are managed in 3 broader categories. As ‘Datal’ means Tusker that is a male elephant having long tusks, ‘Makhna’ means a male without tusk and ‘Makhundi’ means female elephants. Based on Tusk elephants are divided as ‘Tal-Betal’, ‘NalDatiya’, ‘VolkaDatiya’ etc. The elephants are further divided as ‘Kumar baan’, ‘Mirgabaan’ ect based on body structure and as ‘Jharudumiya’, ‘Kharadumiya’ etc based on tail lengths. There are several other terminologies used for elephants based on their behavior and use. I had visited Purna Chandra Rabha’s residence in the Barengabari village. Here we have some casual discussion about his personal life and family. I asked his about his attitude towards the present day elephant management and forest departments works. He was very disappointed with the department’s attitude towards the elephants and mahuts. Further, he had shown me some of the ropes used to catch elephants and also used for training. He told about different wooden, bamboo and metal instruments used in elephants. Some of these ropes are known as ‘Phand’, ‘Phara’, Kaas’ etc based on their use. I had take up these ropes and other instruments in details during my next visit.

Excerpts from January 2013 report

 

For the January month, I had some specific plan to study the mahut knowledge and parts of their professional life in the elephant camps of Manas national park maintained by forest department of Govt. of Assam. I travelled to the Bansbari Range of Manas National Park under Baska District of BTAD, Assam to meet my community elder Mr. Purno Chandra Rabha. He introduced me with his younger brother Mr. Diporu Chandra Rabha. He is also staying is the same Barengabari Village near the range and is associated with state forest department as a  Head mahut. I had reached my destination on 18th of January 2013 from Guwahati and spend four days to work with my community elder

I had accompanied Mr. Diporu Chandra Rabha to the elephant camp and spend the whole day observing and discussing with mahuts about their life and elephant management skills. The camp is known as Mahal and situated near the Kasimdoha river. Around 15 to 18 mahuts and ghassis (Grass man) were deputed in the camp with ten elephants. Their day started with caring and feeding the elephants. The elephants were released to the nearby woods for grazing and some of the mahuts and ghassis go out to collect fodder for their elephants. The elephants came back in the late afternoon and they were bathed in the nearby streams. During duty hours for anti-poaching patrolling and tourist safaris the mahuts and their elephants have to be busy for the whole day. I had myself seen the mahuts and ghassis doing different works like cleaning the dung and arranging the fodders in different areas for different elephants. The elephants are tied with iron chains in wooden posts. These are known as khamari.

I have a long conversation with Mr. Diporu Chandra Rabha about different commands used by mahuts. These commands are basically single word used in Assamese, Bangali and Hindi forms. Some of them are ‘Dhap’, stop the elephant and stand still, ‘Baith’ to make the elephant sit , ‘Mail’  to make the elephant stand , ‘Aaget’ to move the elephant forward, ‘Pichu’ is used to move the elephant backward, ‘Terat’ to roll the elephant aside, ‘Sam Terat’ to roll the elephant to another side.. He also argued that various commands associated with different other purposes like elephant catching operations, hunting and war were lost and not known to the both new generations of mahuts and elephants. We had also discussed the attitude of new mahuts and government facilities, which act as a major intervention to retain the art and culture of mahuts life in these forest camps. The next day, Mr. Diporu Chandra Rabha arranged for a live demonstration of commands and also allowed me to command an elephant. It was an adult female named Rukmini.

 

 

Excerpts from March 2013 report

For the month of March, I had a specific plan to study the health management of elephants by the indigenous mahouts.. I had planned to work on Rabha community and their traditional links, attitude towards the elephants and their habitats of Goalpara district. The forest tracks southern parts Goalpara district bordering the Garo hills of Maghalaya is dominated by Rabha tribal villages along with some Garo tribal villages. Both these communities share the same space with elephants since time immemorial. The geographical location of the district is between latitude 25° 53’ N and longitude 90° 07’ and 91° 05’ E. The topography of Goalpara District is generally characterized by cultivable plains except for a few low- forested hills. Elephants are one of the major mega fauna found in the region. However, developmental activities and clearing of forest for ‘jhumming’ (slash and burn cultivation) has resulted in degradation and fragmentation of habitat. The problem has been compounded due to the fact that most of the forest area is under community or local control. Only 410 km2 area is under the control of Forest department and the rest is private forest. Due to large deposits of coal and limestone in Garo Hills, many of the elephant areas are in danger.

I meat Joydeep Chockrabarty, who has been working in this region with UK-based North of England Zoological Society and Assam-based NGO EcoSystems-India under Assam Haathi Project . I had a brief discussion with him about the issues related to elephants and tribal communities of this region. He had stated how the local communities interact with the elephants and the conflict pattern evolved from coexistence of both human and elephants. He explained the traditional practice of Rabha communities to mitigate the conflict with elephants. I also discussed about the use of trained elephants or the captive elephants used against the wild elephants during the conflict mitigation practice known as koonki.  I asked him to visit some villages located in the wild elephant movement track and refugee areas of the district. These were Bamunghopa, Kalyanpur, Nichinta, Derak and Hatigaon. These villages are populated by Rabha tribes along with Garo, Bodo, Rajbanshi and Jogi-nath communities.  Joydeep shown me how they are trying to benefit the local Rabha communities affected by elephants by promoting their indigenous crafts and textiles. He had also shown various educational materials use to create awareness in these villages.  On the way to Nichinta village, I had seen a long stretch of degraded forest of Sagunbahi RF due to large scale logging for Sal timbers. Joydeep shown me how local communities use fire against elephants to save their crops including a particular fence traditionally maintained by Rabha communities. During my visit, I talked to various community people to understand their attitude and traditional inter-relations with elephants. I talked to Briliant Ch. Marak (65) of Derak village and Dakeshwar Rabha (83) of Hatigaon village and tried to understand their attitude and traditional knowledge related to elephants.

I did an extensive study to understand the contemporary situation of elephants and their interaction with the local communities of this region. I found that the elephants of southern bank of Brahmaputra can be divided into three distinct populations that is the eastern, central and western population. The Goalpara district is mainly explored by the western population of elephants. The habitat in the western range of elephant population covers a major part of Assam and Meghalaya. The distribution of western population extends from near Guwahati through the foothills of the Meghalaya plateau (Garo and Khasi Hills) including the districts of Kamrup and Goalpara in Assam and Rhi-Bhoi, West Khasi Hills, East Garo Hills, West Garo Hills and South Garo Hills of Meghalaya. They also occasionally move to forests of Bangladesh from the forest areas of Baghmara in Meghalaya. This area also includes the Garo Hill Elephant Reserve spread over 3500 km2 and supports approximately 1700 elephants. The large extended distribution of elephants always interacts with the tribal villages located in their corridors. This is probably the main region behind the strong association of tribal people and elephants both ecologically and culturally. I had read some of the books in vernacular language that records the elephant as a major folk element of Goalparia folk culture. Besides secondary sources, I had also gone through several files of Department of Revenue and Agriculture(Kheddah branch), Department of Revenue and Agriculture (Forest branch), Home Department (Judicial branch), Home Department (Public branch), Home Department (Police branch),  Assam Secretariat (Military department), Assam Secretariat (Revenue department), Assam Secretariat (Finance department) including the files of Government of Eastern Bengal and Assam (Financial department/ Forest branch ) collected from Assam State Archive, Guwahati to understand the colonial engagement with elephant in the Goalpara-Garo hills region. I also came to know about several books where elephants were culturally depicted as a folk element.

The cultural tradition of the Rabha community dominated the Goalpara region with other tribal communities like Garo, I seek to study and document is specifically related to the sub theme of Indigenous Knowledge Systems. I had carried out my field work in the March 2013 to understand the position of elephants in the folk or traditional knowledge of the communities living in Goalpara region.  I had tried to focus on the traditional knowledge systems of these communities, especially Rabhas and Garos associated with the elephants. The main theme of this observation was based on the co-existence of both the man and elephants in the same landscape. This documentation helps me to understand the Human-elephant relationship and traditional conflict mitigation knowledge to a larger extent.

Excerpts from April 2013 report

For the month of April, I travelled to the Bansbari Range of Manas National Park under Baska District of BTAD, Assam to meet my community elder Mr. Purna Chandra Rabha and his younger brother Mr. Diporu Rabha. I reached my destination on 11th April 2013 from Guwahati and spent five days to work with my community elder. This is a spring season and Assam was celebrating the Bihu festival. I got  a chance to ask my collaborator regarding the rituals during such a holy occasion. I had an extensive conversation with my community elder, Purna Chandra Rabha regarding the rituals and medicines associated with elephants. At first he was not ready to explain the holy rituals associated with elephants. Both the rituals and medicine are considered as secret traditional knowledge of Mahut communities. One must go through proper rules and regulations before learning this secret holy practice. I had to convince him to record the practice with various arguments about the documentation needs of such folk knowledge. Purna Chandra Rabha asked me to prepare myself to see the rituals of Mahutji Puja that they perform to get the blessings of forest god. According to him this ritual is performed for lord Siva. The Mahutji Puja is performed in a secret place within the jungle and only few mahuts take part in this small ritual.

They use candle, betel leaves and nuts including a bottle of local wine. However, sacrifice is the main part of ritual and Purna Chandra Rabha brought a cock for the purpose. He prepared for the rituals of Mahutji Puja offering a candle betel leaves and nuts including a bottle of local wine. After that he prayed to god with a kalm of the Quraan Shareef. It was very interesting to see a Hindu puja performed through an Islamic prayer. I  asked him for the reason. He said that their previous mahouts did the same. This can be considered as an fusion of both Islamic and tribal rituals. The puja ended with the offering a local cock to the forest god in Mahutji Puja through sacrifice.

I  also documented the traditional medicines used by mahuts to cure various wounds and pains of the elephants. Both the Mahut brothers helped me to understand the traditional medicines of elephants. They  collected some of the medicinal plants such as Swarnalata or Rabonornari , Bih-Dhakia , Vatomali used as ingredients of the traditional medicines of elephants. Purna Chandra Rabha also explained his experience about feeding salt to the elephants. He spoke about his days with Prakitish Chandra Barua, known as Lalji – a legendary elephant catcher and jumbo expert. Lalji was an eccentric and uncanny hunter who killed over 40 tigers and twice as many leopards. For six, sometimes nine months a year, Lalji left his palace and camped in the jungle, to catch elephants. Ialso plann to meet his daughter Parbati Barua, who has a supernatural understanding of elephants, inherited from her father.

Excerpts from May 2013 report

For the May month, I studied the elephant capture and hunting methods along with the mahut culture as a part of their professional life in the elephant camps of Manas national park maintained by forest department of Govt. of Assam. I travelled to the Bansbari Range of Manas National Park under Baska District of BTAD, Assam to meet my community elder Mr. Purno Chandra Rabha and his brother Mr. Diporu Chandra Rabha. I reached my destination on 10th of May and spent four days with my community elder.

We discussed about the selection of good elephants. The basic characteristics of a good elephant depends  on their body features. Body size, Tail length and number of nails were generally considered. The eyes and forehead were also seen. Besides that legs must be examine before selection of the elephants. Mr. Purno Chandra Rabha had told me about the types of Shikar or the elephant capturing operation. The Shikar or the elephant capturing operation is a very specialized task where there was a strong role of each and every mahut, phandi and koonki elephants. The shikar party or the hunting groups have to maintain a specific area of operation known as elephant mahal demarcated by authority.  However, before proceed to capturing methods, one must know about the types of elephants used in such operations. The first one is Pad hati . It is generally used in to Gor shikar to protect the gates or to close the entrance and exit. Sometimes they also help in capturing suitable elephants within the stockade. After that the Shikari koonki elephant, which must be a size over 7 to 7.5 ft height used in elephant capture. The Dipu koonki is also another type. It is used in the depot or a main camp to maintain the newly captured animals or to supply of food. They are used in elephant trainings.

Mr. Purno Chandra Rabha discussed about various types of Shikar or the elephant capturing operation. He started with Gor shikar. In this method wild elephants were literally driven into a pen or stockade. The salt leaks were used to determine specific elephant movement corridors. The capture stocked is built using large timbers and tree logs along with 2 gates. One is entrance other is exit. Here the ‘Pad hati’ were use to protect the gates or to close the entrance and exit. The koonki is used to tie the selected sub-adult calves. The Gajli Shikar, which generally done in monsoon, when new shoots of grasses (in assamese Gajali) were available. 3 to 4 mahouts are allowed to catch elephants and a single koonki is permitted to catch 2 new elephants. The Ankur Shikar is a daily business, where authorities maintain a daily record of the capture operation. The last one is Peti Shikar. It’s a six month operation. A depot or a main camp is established in the border of the forest and a specialized hunting group of mahut, phandi  and shikari labour enter the jungle for 15 to 30 days. Apart from mahut and phandi, the shikari labour should be well trained and well knowledgeable about elephants and the forest. They have another temporary hunting camp within the forest.  Once they capture a new elephant, they have to come back to the depot and submit the new animal in the main camp and go back to the temporary camp.

Apart from this, we had moved towards the cultural life of mahuts. Mr. Purno Chandra Rabha had told me about few folk songs and their importance in mahut’s life and lore. He described the Jora Ghurua process. A bunch of fire is use to show the newly captured elephants to make them acquainted with fire and human. Several folk songs were also sung to soothe the animal during this period. However, the first song is dedicated to God or Allaha. A song may be like this,

Allah allah bolo re bhai,

Hoi allah rasul.

Allah bine kahore nai,

Hoi allah rasul.

Sikar barit jabire bhai,

Hoi allah rasul.

I also went to the Mahut camp of Manas National Park to observe some of the day –to-day activity of the mahuts with Mr. Diporu Chandra Rabha.

Apart from this, we had moved towards the cultural life of mahuts. Mr. Purno Chandra Rabha had told me about few folk songs and their importance in mahut’s life and lore.

Prachi Dublay

Excerpts from November 2013 report

 

Adim Sangeet that is Adivasi Music is the first category of Indian Music which in many ways forms the ground for latter categories. Unfortunately, induced urbanization in interiors of India has been proven a threat to Indigenous Arts especially Tribal Arts. When indigenous knowledge systems meet the streams of modern sciences & technology a new idiom of art is created which changes the face of Music which is an important happening as far as growth and development of any art form is concerned.

As we know, it has a unique cultural significance when an artiste belonging to the western belt of India travels across the country in the opposite direction and stays with an artist from another community belonging to the eastern belt of India.

Both of them speak different languages, follow different musical traditions & live altogether different lives. When they both meet & try to exchange musical traditions & ideas, in all possibility a new language of music is created which bridges the gap between cultural fraternities. Study of Mishing Commune Music becomes a catalyst in bridging this gap.

In a way, it is an experiment to explore the Unity in Diversity.

To give you the basic frame of their music we are sharing link from internet for your perusal. Song of the Mishing :

http://sounds.bl.uk/World-and-traditional-music/Music-from-India/025M-RKDATX0059XX-0100V0

 

 

 

A Small Note on Music & Culture of Mishing tribe from north east Assam.

 (This note is prepared by Shonia Doley, my collaborator artist, Mishing Community)

The Mishing are a colorful Mongoloid tribe who inhabit the reverine areas of Lakhimpur, Sibsagar, Darrang, Sonitpur, Golaghat, Dhemaji, Jorhat,Tinsukia Districts of Assam. They were originally the Tibeto-Burman speaking tribe who, probably trekking down from the point of dispersion and came down to the plains. The Mishings, forming a part and parcel of Assamese society, have contributed a lot to the formation and enrichment of the local culture throughout the centuries.  The mishings have been living in the plains of Assam in the midst of non-mishing population ever since they migrated from the hills i.e the 11th century or so. They have their own traditions, customs, religious beliefs ,practices and language which distinguish them clearly from the rest of the non-mishing people. The Mishing has a rich folk literature which reflects their sentiments and feelings, social norms and values, historical events associated with their migration from the hills to plains as well as socio-political events experienced in their life. Their folk literature can be described under the broad headings (A) Folk Song and (B) Folk Tale. The folk songs can be again sub-grouped into(1) Devotional song (2) Love song (3) song of lamentation (4) Lullaby, (5) Nursery rhyme (6) Songs of religious and ritualistic association (7) Narrative songs (8) Songs sung on the “occasion of marriage”.

The devotional songs called ‘A:bangs’ occupy a unique position in the life-stream of the Mishing community. It is a verse of hymn of praise and worship to God or Goddess. It reflects the true philosophical concept of community. It narrates not only the pray songs of the supernatural but also the different modes and ways of life of the Mishing people. It is the true religious guide to the community. On the other hand it may be love songs which celebrate the lusty joy of life constituting a form of poetic art. The ‘A:bangs’ are very rich in emotional appeal, philosophical import, figure of speech and elegance of words. This is decidedly a superior literature and no man of taste can fail to appreciate its sweetness. These songs are very agreeable to the ears as songs combining occasionally with dance while they can captivate the minds of the listeners with mead of devotional ecstasy. The ‘A:bangs’ are the earliest known verbal songs of the community. Hence, these songs can be called as Historical Songs or Poetical History of the community.

Without a ‘Mibu’ the priest of the community it is beyond to the common people to remember these songs and explain their exact meanings. Some festivals like ‘Po:rag’ etc. can’t be performed without ‘Mibu’. During the ‘Po:rag festival the ‘Mibu sings ‘A:bang’ throughout the night with a group of young boys and girls. These songs wonderfully appeal to Gods or Goddesses for their special incarnation on him. The spirit of God and Goddesses is supposed to have entered the body of a ‘Mibu’. This system is known as ‘Pa:ro A:nam’. Here the ‘Mibu’ has been empowered with some supernatural powers and can foretell the fortunes of the people. In this way the ‘A:bangs’ occupy a religious sentiment in the mind of the community.

Mishing oral literature abounds in compositions that are the expressions of love and yearning of the youthful heart. The most popular and numerous of this class of songs are those of the type known as ‘Oi-ni;tom’ which are comparable to the Assamese Bihu songs in both form and content. Short and averse compositions of normally two (and occasionally three or four) lines, the ‘Oi-nitoms’ are exquisite pieces outstanding for their natural lyricism, poetic sensitiveness and picturesque imagery.

A few examples and these are free rendering; an exact translation being next to impossible:

My tears falling in the river

Have gone downstream.

My love take some water in your

Cupped hands.

  In the lending of the river at

 Your place.

 You will see my shadow through……the openings fingers.

 Drink as rice-beer the tears that……flow by day.

Light a lamp with the tears that

 Flow at night.

 One could even count up all the

Stars of the sky.

But the sorrows of our love-torn

Heart are beyond counting.

Another form of love-lyrics is made up of love-dialogues a series of addresses and counter addressals between the lover and the beloved. Below is a fragment of such love-dialogue known as lupo in Mishing.

 Youth: My love, let us elope along the elephant track.

Maiden: My treasure, I am not such a maiden as to elope along the elephant track; but I do love you.

These songs are sung in season and out of season. They indicate many of the feelings which pulsate the heart of the youth. ‘Oi-Ni:toms’ are sung both singly such as when someone is doing work alone in the fields and sometimes, are sung collectively during feasts and festivals such as Bihu, ‘Po:rag’, ‘Ali A:ye’ Ligang’ etc. While they works in the fields, they sing to relive the monotony of their activities. The ‘Oi-Ni:toms’ are interesting for several reasons. They are exquisite love songs and give a glimpse of the youth psychology. They prove that even the unlettered people can create superb imagery. They also throw light on social and domestic relations including their occupations. They also reveal how lovers talk rather than in ordinary speech.

The songs of lamentation are popularly known as ‘Kaban’ are the expressions of sorrows and grief. These songs are commonly sung by a deserted lover at the time or death of departure of a very close relative. But they are commonly associated with the women section of the society. She gets consolation of mind by singing ‘Kabans’. Once a ‘Kaban’ is sung, uncontrollable tears roll down the cheeks.

The ‘Kaban’ are as old as the love songs-the ‘OI-Ni:tom’. Descriptions of ‘Kabans’ are found in ‘A-bang’. The ‘Kabans’ are sung recollecting the sweet memories of the past.

The ‘Kabans’ has been classified into eight part. They are as follows:

Do:bo, Me:bo, Yamne’, Sirug, Do:ying, Bone’, Pumsu, Tumbo.

Songs are sung to lull the children to sleep. Such songs occupy a special place and appeal to both young and old. Most of the lullabies in different societies have been composed by the unlettered women and so there is an originality and natural charm about them.

The lullabies are usually fanciful compositions but they reveal a delicacy of sentiments which are beyond the reach of literary poetry. The logic of sequence of ideas in these songs is of child’s. The Mishing term for such items is ‘Moman ni:tom’.

The bulk of the material of songs of religious and ritualistic association category comprises the priestly lore (Mibu A:bang) which is the exclusive preserve of the priests and shamans (Mibu/Miri), sung or chanted by the latter for such purposes as divination, invocation and propitiation of the gods and spirits, the language of much of the material is esoteric and archaic and as such not easily intelligible. One reason for the elusive nature of the meaning is the fact that some of the rituals and beliefs have lost their original significance because of culture shift. Some ‘Mibu A:bangs’ have creation myths and genealogical legends as their content. The following is an example of a ritualistic chant:

  Oh, our ancestors,

We are offering you today

Valuable beads and jewelery.

  Keeping the sun and the moon

As our witnesses,

  We have shown these to all

  Present in the board daylight.

Today we have killed a tusked

Boar in honor of the gods above.

Do keep us safe and sound.

Some ritualistic songs are, however, not confined to the priestly function and are sung by the common folk taking part in the ritualistic ceremonies. Some of songs of the rain ceremony are sung only on special occasions like ‘Ali-A:ye’-ligang’ and ‘Po:rag’. The songs beginning with ‘’Lo:  lole  lo:le’’ is one such.

  Do:yings’ are narrative songs and as such are akin to ballads. While some ‘Do:yings’ have creation myths and etiological legends for their content. There are others which are more in the nature of ballads proper with the human element predominating in them. Since most of these song-narratives have tragic themes and thus have something of the lament in them, they are designated by the term ‘Do:ying Kaban’ (story song of lament). Song of Gela, of Deobor- Dentale,  Song of Binod- Pipoli are a few compositions of this category.

Mishing songs sung on the occasion of marriage are something very different from what are commonly known as marriage songs in most other Indian societies. They are not pieces enlivening the proceedings at various stages of the marriage rites : they are in effect not far removed from laments-laments of the bride at the prospects of being separated from her family, from her friends and from the familiar surroundings of her girlhood. The Mishing term for marriage songs is ‘Midang ni:tom’.

As indicated earlier, songs of Assam Vaishnava association, Bihu songs and other Assamese songs cast indistinctly-Mishing phonetic and musical moulds as well as some mixed compositions ,containing both Mishing and Assamese elements also form part of the folklore heritage of the Mishings.

There were various types of Mishing instruments found in Mishing Culture. They were divided into three parts. Such as:

1st part – Ejuk Tapung, Tumbo Tapung, Pumsu Tapung, Derki Tapung, Tu-Tok Tapung, Tu-Lung Tapung, Pemp.

2nd part –  Gunggang, Gu-tig.

3rd part –  DUM-DUM, DUM-PAK, DEN-DUN, DEN-TUK, LE-NONG, MARBANG.

Apart from these instruments the Mishing people use LU-PI, TO-KA, BU-BUNG.

Excerpts from December 2013  report

India has a very rich tradition of tribal music dating back to several thousand years – most probably since the advent of the tribal living itself. The very old tribals in different parts of the country – the Pulayans, the Thodas, the Orams, the Santals, the Savaras, – have their typical music and dance. This ancient tribal music contributed to a large degree to the general mould of India’s music.  The extreme cultural diversity creates endless varieties of tribal music styles.  The Tribal Music of India has a unique identity of its own in the wide spectrum of music in India. It is intrinsically merged in the tribal life. The musical instruments are generally very rudimentary blending well with the local environment like daf, dholak,nal, horse hair violin, duduk, bamboo flutes, ektar, dotar, saringda, rabab, Shankh, Ghungharu, Gummeta (Dakki, Budike), ldakka and Udaku (Udakai),  kartal, Kenda, Manjira or Zanz, Nout, Pungi, Thanthi Panai etc. Often raw material from coconut shells, animal skin, bamboo, pumpkin, peritoneum, pots etc. which are sourced locally are used.  These instruments are not refined as the ones used in the classical music.  The tracks of the tribal music are acknowledged as ruggedly tribal because of their booming sound.

The peculiar feature of the Indian Tribal Music is that unlike the classical music, it is not taught in music schools. The skills are passed on through the hereditary process of learning. It is passed down from generations to generations.   Indian tribal music is a closed-group form of ethnicity. One cannot study it in isolation from the social and ritual contexts of the tribal society. It has a well formed basis of community living. In a tribal society the learning and playing of music forms a cardinal part of the community living.   It is a kind of musical socialization. It’s learning  is an integral part of numerous customs and practices  conforming to the reckoned appropriate by the tribal society.  Children are initiated in the learning process of tribal music from an early age. Singing and dancing are an integral part of the music.  Children from the Santhal tribal society are initially supplied with the katic murli (small sized flutes) of five to six inches in length with three to four envoys to blow and the drums of smaller size to beat.

 

Indian tribal music scenario possesses its aboriginal restrictions. The music amongst tribal is considered as a ‘community’ property and not an exclusive individual property. For this very reason, tribal music even if framed by individual composers remains anonymous. For example, none of the Santhal  songs can be seen to contain the names of individual Santhal composers.

 

Music in the tribal community is learned almost by osmosis. From childhood the music is heard and imbibed. There are several community functions which give an opportunity to the tribe members to practice and hone their skills. These are the normal functions which synchronize tribal life with the universe.

With the advent of modernization and spread of technology and improvements in communication and transport facilities, the ‘tribal-ness’ of the tribal community is fast getting diluted with its resultant impact on the ‘virginity’ of the tribal music. It is feared that within next decade, we will lose forever the original form of tribal music. This loss will be irretrievable. It should also be noted that any study of tribal music will be incomplete without the study of tribal culture, living style, rites and rituals, language and most importantly the local environment – which all blend harmoniously in the life of the tribals. The present project has a ‘focus’ on tribal music but alongside it will also encompass all these aspects to make the study complete and meaningful. It will also serve as a valuable reference material for the future generations for the study of anthropology, sociology, history and other allied sciences.  The project will involve visiting the hinterlands of tribal areas of India, often with inaccessible and indomitable living conditions and staying with the tribal community.

 

Excerpts from February 2013 report

Important information I could read about Ali-aye Lygang Fest –

It is a sowing festival and literary meaning of Ali-aye Lygang stands for first sowing of roots and fruits in which ALI stands for roots, AYE for fruits and LYGANG for sowing. The oncoming of the Ahu & Bau season is marked with the celebration of Ali-aye Lygang.

The Mising people believe the Wednesdaay as Lakshmi day and on that day the head of the family marks the sowing of seeds in their respective fields, with a handful of seeds , a YOKPA, APONG, PURANG, TAKE, PEERO, SI:PAG ONNO, preferably carrying in an VGYN.

In the day time, the women get busy preparing APONG & PURANG, in the evening hours, the head of the family again pray their forefathers including KOJE-YANGGO.

After the feasting-merry making starts in the form off GUMRAGSO:MAN.

Gumrag is the dance of the commune where entire community get to gather and dance joyfully.

Major points of our discussion were:

Mishing is one of the aboriginal tribes of Assam and it lives mainly in Upper Assam on the banks, south and north of the mighty Brahmaputra and its tributaries. This Mongoloid tribe that’s the Mishing believes DO:NYI and PO”LO as their mother and father respectively.

 

They have got their own language, traditional beliefs and practices. They sacrifice animals in the name of different deities.

They have rich folklore & their folk literature mainly contains folk tales and folk songs. They are composed in their own language and handed down from generations to generations from time immemorial.

Their folksongs reflect the human feelings, sentiments & social values. Their folksongs are the resources for scholars to find a new concept in their life.

EG: “ Oiya selabdo okume selabdo

Tangki rengadpe kablen bikupe

Tangki rengadpe kablen bige:la

Meloke doyingem kingabau bikupe”

–        A Mishing Song

[“Oh my love.. I shall become a dove and pour out my lament sitting on the rooftop of your house.. And through the lament I shall recreate all the tales of our past..!!”]

I met my guide Dr Anil Boro and had a long interaction with him. He very warmly shared his valuable insights about the Mishing culture with me and advised me to focus on the Special Songs of the Mishing those are :

Traditional                                                                                     Modern

A:bang  – Religious

Kaban  – Lament                                                                             ANU NI:TOM

Oi Ni”tom – Love song

Ko:ni:nam – Lullaby

Moman – Nursery Rhymes

 

 

 

Excerpts from March  2013 report

I am herewith sharing some of my notes which I took during the fieldwork.

Dr Taburam Taid pointed it out :  “First were called Hill Miris, originally residents of the Hills of Arunachal Pradesh, the Mising came down to riverside of upper Assam and became habitants of Brahmaputra river valley few hundred years back.

Initially the tribe who believed in Nature Gods and ate meat, later came under the influence of Srimant Sankardev’s Satras and Vaishnavisms slowly started following some Hindu customs and yet kept alive the traditions related to eating meat. They found a middle way and created a new way of life. On the riverside they got the name for the commune – Mising. The sound SH doesn’t exist in their language hence one must write and pronounce the name correctly as Mising and not Mishing.”

The etymology goes like – Mi is Man and Sing is Water = Mising

Village folk get together during various festivals and make merry with songs and dances accompanied by Mising Drum Dumdum, Pipe Gogona, Taal etc… Besides their own festivals, Mising also observe the Assamese Bihu festivals..

Assamese language and Bihu festival are the great binding forces which bring together all the tribes from various regions of Assam.

An Example of a Mising Song: Chant

Ato taabinam, Aramme, Tadogme

Mope simetole

Bone bolunkp,

Resi tapinko-rele

Kamo taneko4Do:nyi arungemdakkamneko

Po:lo takkamneko

Ode namti Bo:bi:ne

Keko namonge titone

Bosidadike munggine sinnamko

Nom bidungkune

Nom oneng omangem

O”de” tungkubo.today

 

Meaning: Oh our ancestors… we offer you today valuable ornaments and gold and silver… With the Sun & Moon as our witnesses.. We are showing our gratitude to you by standing under the sunlight.. We have today sacrificed a tusked boar in honour of the Gods above.. May you keep us all well..

Like many other tribes, Mising is also a dance loving community and hence it is important to study their songs and music within the context of the dances..

The flutes used in the tribal and fold belts of Assam are like any other normal flutes varying in sizes. They mainly carry two names. Smaller one is called Huthuli and the bigger one is called Gogona.

Excerpts from April 2013 report

While interacting with a great scholar, musician and historian from the Mising Community Dr Taburam Taid, I remarked that there are primarily two pentatonic musical scales found in the Music of the Mising, they are:

 Major Scale  – Bhoop : Sa Re Ga Pa Dha

& Minor Scale –  Dhani : Sa Ga Ma Pa Ni

Immediately, Taid Sir said: “My dear, I have already discovered this around sixty years back!”

I then requested him to kindly appreciate the fact that here is a student who actually belongs to the extreme western belt of India and doesn’t know anything about music, language & culture of the Mising ,thus her findings have a special meaning. I also reassured Taid Sir that even if he has discovered the grammar sixty years back, I shall re-interpret it for the sake of the contemporary music of the nation and re-render the melodies by interpreting them with their present context.

Excerpts from May 2013 report

Working Hypothesis: While being with the Misings, I could realize that the tribe which originally was called as Hill Miris came down to the river side to settle in search of a better living. They grew crops, developed small businesses like fishery at the riverside. They developed a culture which grew at the riverside.. Thus Water remained predominantly central to their living… If we examine their Music, their dances, their songs, their body movements, rituals and day to day living – we can easily confirm this observation. Mi is Man and Sing is Water.

Interestingly, this Mongoloid Tribe brought along their music based on pentatonic scale and continued to cherish the traditional Pentatonic Melodies based on this scale.

As per WIKI – ” A pentatonic scale is a musical scale or mode with five notes per octave in contrast to a heptatonic (seven note) scale such as the major scale and minor scale. Pentatonic scales are very common and are found all over the world. ”

Till today, the whole Music of the Mising revolves around Bhoop and Dhani as mentioned in the earlier report.

Excerpts from June 2013 report

Current Phase of the Research:

Month of June was the month of Riyaaz and internalizing the Music of the Mising!

I am a practicing vocalist and hence it is immensely important for me to learn & re-render the songs of the community I am working on thus I have started devoting time to my own Riyaaz that is practicing vocal music in my case. I am sure I will be able to vocalize a few songs of the Mising by explaining the musical structure of the same during the final presentation at NEHU as scheduled (tentatively) by NFSC.

Hare Krishna Report

 Excerpts from January 2013 report

In the month of January,2013 I went to Jamshedpur and Amadubi Village, Dhalbhumgarh, Jharkhand to do my fieldwork. Then in the morning of 3rd Jan  have visited local archive  Kalamandir Library and Tribal Culture Centre, Jamshedpur. In kalamandir I met Mr. Amitabha Ghosh who delivered me a good lecture on Paitkar Painting as well as about the community of Paitkar artists. I visited ‘Biponi’,a centre of tribal handicraft by Kalamandir where different kind of Paitkar paintings are available. In the evening I met my informant Mr. Dharmendra Mishra, the senior reporter of ‘SANMARG’ and Dr. Ratan Mahato, the senior reporter of Dhaldhumgarh Block.

On 4th Jan I visited Amadubi Village and interviewed Paitkar artist Mr. Bhootnath Gayen. On 5th Jan, I met my collaborator Mr. Anil Chitrakar. I collected some data from Anil Chitrakar which will be helpful for my project. On 6th Jan I did some library work in Kalamandir Library.

Excerpts from February 2013 report

The Paitkar painting contains a robust sensuality and is practiced  in the Eastern part of India, mainly Bengal and the border area of Bengal and Jharkhand. The form of Paitkar painting has a direct co-relation with rock art, which shows a sequential development according to the lifestyle of the group. The Paitkar artist has a strong awareness of their surroundings and this is reflected in the contemporary images. They use to paint the social issues and stories to create awareness among the people.

The Paitkar artists prefer simple outlines and representational lines to paint. To eliminate shading the artists are gives attention on simplification of volume and colours.

Paitkar painting may be considered as the variable of Pata painting. Pata painting or Pata chitra was term used for long scroll painting. This scroll painting has a vertical format. Pata painting is one of the earliest folk painting of India. The communities who paint Pata chitras are known as Patua in West Bengal. They are also known locally as Patidat, Patekar or Paitkar.

Jadu patua is a group of Patua painting which is also known as Paitkar painting. This form of painting is practiced in Jharkhand and the border area of West Bengal. In Santhal tribe Jadu Patua or Paitkar painting is considered to have the capacity to send the wandering souls of the dead to heaven and thus help to free them of all pain. There is one theme of Paitkar painting which is called as Chakshudan . The artists go to the house where death has occurred and they carry the painting with them where the iris of the eye is missing. They show the painting to the family of the dead person and explain that their dear one is not able to see as his eye is missing. Quickly he agrees to paint the eye of the dead after the relatives give a substantial token in the form of money and other articles. After this Chakshudan ,it is believed that the eyesight of the wandering soul is returned and is at peace.

 

My first research question is focused on the text of Paitkar painting. And during fieldwork in January and February, I got more information in this context.  The medium they used to paint this painting is water based colour derived from nature. The artist uses certain leaves, coloured stone and soil to prepare colour. The soil and colour stone are available by the riverside. But it is tiresome to find them. They also create colour from certain leaf and fruits. For this preparation they have to boil this leafs and fruits and filter the conconction. And for making this liquid thicker, the artist boils it again. From the basic primary colours i.e. Red, Yellow and Blue, the artist creates more colours.

The earlier Paitkar painting was dominated by Olive green, Deep brown and black. Later the shift was made to using other colours like- Indigo, Ochre yellow etc. When they paint some religious story or epic story they use Red.

The surface they used to paint Paitkar is the bulk of palm tree. But now-a-days artists use paper and cloth as it is  convenient.

About the content of Paitkar I found some variables. The artist used to depict different type of subjects in their painting. The earlier Paitkar was familiar with the understanding of bad dreams. The Paitkar artist used to terrify the family member of the client by saying that he saw a dream about the soul of the client and that the deceased soul wanted money from the family. Sometimes the artist may draw a chicken or goat or some other things in the painting and then clients’ family would what was drawn. Sometimes the artist draws the used items of the deceased and the family would give them to the artist.

Interaction with Mr. Amitabha Ghosh

During my first field visit, I interviewed the Chairperson of Kalamandir, Mr. Amitabh Ghosh. According to him the earlier Paitkar painting was used to decipher bad dreams. The forms are elongated like primitive art. The painted face came much later in the mid 20th century.. So, we trace the painting through the ages. The birds and snakes are depicted in each painting..

Mr. Ghosh also mentioned that the Paitkar artists are not cultivators and want fallow or unused land for making colour. This type of land is in a huge cavity , full of snakes. So preparing colours is very risky. That’s why they worship the snake goddess Manasa and paint the story of Manasa in Paitkar.

Interaction with my collaborator artist Anil Chitrakar

My collaborator artist Anil Chitrakar is a senior of Paitkar artist community. I got a lot of information of technical details of this particular painting after interacting with him. He uses certain leafs and soil to prepare colour. Preparing  colour from soil takes more than one month. Some stones are used to make colour which is available by the riverside.

Excerpts from March 2013 report

Paitkar painting are mostly associated with Hindu epics. The stories are from of Ramayana, Mahabharata, Manasa song (Manasa pada), Kali song (Kali Pada). Ramayana story focuses on the character drawing Rama, Sita and Mandudari. They recount the story about the deeds of gods and goddesses, such as Shiva or Durga, from Hindu mythology; or the local deities, such as the snake goddess Manasa. Particularly popular Paitkar are Yama patas, in which the god of death punishes sinners.  Unlike Hindu gods and goddess, the deities of Santhal (a tribe of Jharkhand) i.e., Pilsuram and Pilsuburi are also painted. Thus, it can be seen that Paitkar art has been dynamic, changing to meet the needs and interests of the community.

A different form of art is also practiced by Paitkar artists. The leave of taal (fan-palm) tree is used as surface to draw this type painting. But it is not similar to Paitkar painting totally. Another scroll painting named Jadu patua similar to Paitkar is practised in Dumka district nearby. The style of Paitkar painting is derived from Pandulipi which is earlier used by kings to send a message to other kings. Pandulipi is scroll in nature.  Traditionally, Paitkars are men. Women have always assisted with the preparation of dye and colours, but now they are also recognized as talented artists and performers in their own right.

This fieldwork has provided the information about religious links to Paitkar and has helped  to look at the religious connection to the rural life of Jharkhand.

First, the Paitkar generally reflects the socio religious life of Jharkhand. The area Amadubi and nearby places in Jharkhand are inhabited by a number of snakes. Even the painters who are in search of dye and natural colour get scared to take it out in between the stones. Most of the colours are picked from natural stones. The snake deity Manasa is believed to be protector from snake bites as well as bringing prosperity to the family.

Anil Chitrakar sang and explained a musical pitch. The songs are in bengali and used an Ektara (one string musical instrument) and Dotara ( two string musical instrument). I have collected the written version of some of those songs.

Ramayan story is depicted drawing the characters of Rama, Sita and Mandudari. They use the hair of squirrel which acts like a fine quality 1-.00 numbered brush etc. A Different art form on the leave of taal (fan-palm ) tree is used as a base to line or drawings.

Another scroll painting named Jadu patua similar to Paitkar is practised in Dumka district nearby. Paitkar is also called pat chitra because it contains songs with verse.

Pat chitra-Pada chitra-Padya chitra. Padya or Pada means a verse of two rhyming line. The songs are Manasa songs, Nouka Vilash, Karam gaan, grama song etc. The subject in the Paitkar also varies like Folk dances, religious story, hunting scene etc.

Excerpts from April 2013 report

The activities undertaken  during this field visit were:

  1. Technique and treatment of Paitkar.
  2. Daily life and social life of the artist.
  3. Photography.
  4. Video and audio recording.

I stayed at the Chitrakar’s for a few days. During these days we walked around in the village and saw the Paitkar was the only source of income for them. On the other hand, it was quite surprising that the new generation is not interested in continuing with the art. Scarcity of water and lack of communication has made their life stressful. During this field visit I focused on my research query about technique and treatment of Paitkar.

Roadways to Amadubi:

The distance of Amadubi is from National Highway 33 towards Routara is 7km, Ranchi via Bundu is 170 km, Jameshedpur is 65km, Dhalbhumgarh is 7km, Ghatsila is 20km, Chakulia is 25km.

 

The Paitkars’ official caste designation (or hereditary occupation) is Chitrakar or Picture Maker. The term Paitkar and “Chitrakar” are interchangeable, though the artists generally use “Chitrakar“ as their surname even though they are not related to one another.

The technique of Paitkar

The Paitkar artists use a natural gum with the colours to make it permanent and give more glaze. This natural gum is collected from bel (wood apple) fruit and the resin of neem tree. For colours they collect some kind of coloured stone, soil, vegetable and leaf. Then they grind it with water on a plain stone surface. When the mixture is completed they remove the dust from it with a strainer and boil it to make it thicker. After that they use the gum on it. The Paitkar artists use the shell of coconut to store the prepared colours.

Description of the painting-

These four photographs are the splitting up of one Paitkar Painting. In this particular painting the painter narrates the story of Paitkar artists. The performance of Paitkar artists and the process of performing is the central theme .

The painting is divided into six parts. In first frame we see some Paitkar artists prepare the painting and together they are moving out to the village to perform with their painting. This is their mode for survival. There are three Paitkar artists walking to the village and the first one is carrying a traditional Drum, the second one carrying the Paitkar painting and the third holding a cymbal. There is a village frame in the painting where a farmer also noticeable.

In the second frame we see that one Paitkar artist is showing his painting to king and the others are performing with song. The painting which they are showing to king is about Hindu Goddess Durga.

In third one the artists are begging into the villager’s house. This time the Paitkar painter depicts the story of Goddess Kali. Behind him another two Paitkar artists are performing drum, cymbal and singing as well. The villagers are offering food and something to the artists.

In the fourth part artists are singing and performing with Paitkar and this time the artists paint the Goddess Manasa. And the woman of the house and her son give some food and other stuff to the artists.In the fifth frame again the artists are viewing about the epic Mahabharata. And in last one the artists are doing some ritual activity with the painting.

The text of the Paitkar comprises the form, the content and the technique.

 

Some of the colours used in Paitkar and their sources are

white – lime powder, yellow – stone or soil, black – lampblack, burnt rice, ashes from kerosene lamp ,red – stone or soil, blue – indigo, green – broad bean leaves.

They collect all these colours from the stones by the bank of river. The other secondary colours are prepared from this basic collection of colours by mixing them. Sometimes the artists leave their paper as ‘paper white’ or blank to specify the white colour instead of using any other white paint. Black colour is made up from the smoke of kerosene lamp. Kerosene lamp creates black smoke and Paitkar artist store the clinker or carbon residue from the black smoke and then mix it with the natural gum and water. Now-a-days artists are using commercial poster colour which is convenient for them.

The Paitkar artists make the brushes from the hair of squirrel and goat. The hairs are tightened by thread on a bamboo stick.

Now-a-days the artists paint on paper. They choose the rough side of the paper. They make the paintings into parts and then sew them together. Once the pieces of paper or the frame have been assembled, the artist rolls the paper to conform to the proper shape. Most Paitkars use pencil to outline the forms of the characters and images. The individual frames are demarcated with decorative borders which disguise the seams between frames. Usually the dark outlines are added at the end of the painting process. Cloth is adhered to the back to strengthen the seams. Often old saris are used as the backing and the patterns of the fabric add visual depth to the Paitkar’s presentation.

Except the Paitkar painting the Amadubi village’s artists make another traditional painting. It’s a kind of traditional etching process where artists used to incise the subject on the dry leaf of Fan-Palm tree through a needle. Sometimes the artists draw the subject matter with charcoal and pencil and then carve out the entire line with a needle. After carving the outline the artists put the colour on it and rub it wih cloth. In this process outlines are filled up with the colours. It is again rubbed with wet cloth to clean up the plain surface of the painting.

While explaining the paitkar, its technique and other necessary information regarding songs and stories he did not accept the Chakshudan which has never been practiced by him even though this is remarked as one of the important features in books and other secondary sources.